Tag Archives: national parks

National Parks Service lifts restrictions on naming rights, clears way for commercialism

After months of reviewing public comments, the National Park Service announced director Jonathan Jarvis signed and finalized “Director’s Order #21,” a policy allowing federal parks to seek donations from corporate vendors, allowing the parks service to partner with alcohol companies, dropping the policy that parks must be free of commercialism and lifting restrictions on naming rights in parks.

This is a statement from Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert Program:

It is disgraceful that the parks service plans to sell our national parks to the highest bidder despite overwhelming public opposition to increased commercialism in our national parks. More than 215,000 petition signers and hundreds of commenters opposed this policy.

Now that this policy has been finalized, park visitors soon could be greeted with various forms of advertisements, like a sign reading “brought to you by McDonald’s” within a new visitor’s center at Yosemite, or “Budweiser” in script on a park bench at Acadia.

The NPS did make one right move by removing a provision from the policy that would have allowed corporate logos to be placed on exhibits and waysides.

In a society where we are constantly inundated with advertisements everywhere we go, national parks offered a unique and beautiful escape. Even in schools, students endure a constant barrage of billboards, social media advertising and marketing. Until now, national parks have remained relatively commercial-free, which is why they were such a valuable respite.

The finalization of Director’s Order #21 signals a dangerous shift toward opening our parks up to an unprecedented amount of commercial influence.

National park advocates warn of revenue shortfalls with government shutdown

National parks advocates are urging Congress to pass a spending agreement to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1 and warning that a shutdown would significantly harm national parks and cost millions in lost revenue for local communities.

In a letter to members of the House and Senate, the National Parks Conservation Association said the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 forced the closure of all national park sites and that another shutdown would result in more than 770,000 visitors being turned away each day the parks are closed. That could mean as much as $42 million in visitor spending being lost every day at a time when the Park System is experiencing record-breaking attendance in advance of its 2016 centennial.

“A government shutdown only brings into focus the families, communities, businesses and dedicated park rangers who struggle while our national treasures are shuttered,” according to the letter from NPCA president Clark Bunting, noting that the 2013 government shutdown turned away almost eight million visitors, costing local communities nearly a half billion dollars in lost revenue.

“Today the shutdown would once again be a sad chapter in the struggle to adequately fund our nation’s needs, including America’s national parks.” 

The prospect of another government shutdown comes at a difficult time for the National Park Service, which has had its operating budget cut by more than 7 percent over the past five years, in today’s dollars. These cuts have resulted in fewer rangers to protect parks and greet the public while leaving roads, trails, visitor centers and other infrastructure elements crumbling.

With a maintenance backlog that has grown to $11.5 billion due to a significant decline in construction funding and insufficient investments in the transportation funding bill, Bunting said the only way to get parks back on track is to restore park funding to pre-sequester levels and provide the funding parks need to prepare for the centennial year and beyond.

“Rather than threatening another damaging shutdown, Congress should be preparing for the influx of visitors expected during the national parks’ 2016 centennial year by pursuing a deal that can allow for needed restoration of funding for national parks,” Bunting wrote. “We urge swift passage of a bipartisan continuing resolution clean of environmentally damaging policy riders, followed by a committed bipartisan effort to enact a budget deal that replaces the sequester and allows for the needed restoration of funding for the National Park Service in Fiscal Year 2016.”

New, now, hot in travel: Coloring books with a sense of place

COLORING BOOKS WITH A SENSE OF PLACE: Coloring books for grown-ups are all the rage as a way to reduce stress and rediscover the simple joy of carefully filling in the spaces between the lines. 

Now Little, Brown and Co. is launching a new series of coloring books with a sense of place. “Splendid Cities” and “Secret Paris” will be published June 9, with “Secret Tokyo” and “Secret New York” coming out in October. Each book is 96 pages and costs $16. 

The books offer intricately designed black-and-white drawings filled with patterns and depictions just begging to be colored in. “Color your way to calm” is the series’ tagline.

In “Splendid Cities,” some of the cityscapes, architecture and details are real, inspired by San Francisco, Tokyo, Stockholm and other places, while some are imagined. The books due out in the fall evoke their destinations with representations of things you might find there, whether it’s ordinary items from a grocery store, flora and fauna, or items of clothing that are associated with the place — kimonos or lanterns for Tokyo, for example. 

The books will be available in stores and online.

CONDE NAST TRAVELER HOT HOTELS LIST: The May issue of Conde Nast Traveler features the 2015 “hot list” of the world’s best new hotels. The magazine says the 60 properties that made the list “combine old-school extravagance and service with just the right measure of modernity.” 

The list ranges from 21 Broad in Nantucket, Massachusetts, a restored 27-room Victorian mansion, to Raffles Istanbul, Turkey, a 185-room hotel in Zorlu Center, an upscale shopping and cultural complex. Others on the list include The Dean Hotel, Dublin; Delano Las Vegas:, Casas del XVI, Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic; Vina Vik overlooking vineyards in Chile’s Millahue Valley; Soho House Chicago; La Reserve Paris, and the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

NATIONAL PARKS PASS: Planning a road trip to hit national parks this summer? Consider buying an annual pass.

The passes can be used at national parks, national wildlife refuges and other federal recreation sites. A pass covers entrance fees and certain other standard fees for a driver and everyone in a personal vehicle, or up to four adults at sites that charge per person (children age 15 and under are admitted free). 

The pass is $80 and can be bought in person at a federal recreation site, by calling 888-275-8747, extension 3, or online. Details at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm. 

Why the Roosevelts are relevant

In 1969, Angela Lansbury starred as the madwoman Countess Aurelia in the Broadway musical Dear World, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. The show was a bomb, but Lansbury won the Tony Award that spring and the show is noted for one great tune, a passionate anthem to denial called “I Don’t Want to Know.”

“Let me hide every truth from my eyes with the back of my hand,” sings the Countess. “Let me live in a world full of lies with my head in the sand.” 

I’ve been singing along with Countess Aurelia after the last few months of mind-numbing news: Ebola fever spreading in west Africa; Israel bombing the hell out of the ghetto that is the Gaza Strip; Putin playing Orwellian mind games and attacking Ukraine; black-clad fascists executing hostages in Iraq; President Obama proposing to defeat the fiends by using the same failed strategies that fueled their growth.

Then there were Missouri cops and immigration officers going Rambo on U.S. citizens and desperate immigrants, using military hardware in our undeclared wars at home; electoral analyses that declare Democrats cannot possibly win control of the House and may lose control of the Senate; more evidence of influence peddling and incompetence in Scott Walker’s administration; and an appeals court ruling reinstating Walker’s restrictive voter ID law, just in time to suppress turnout in the midterm elections.

For a while, Countess Aurelia offered me a tuneful escape, but then PBS jogged me out of it with its new Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. This 14-hour epic presented the personal struggles and achievements of Republican Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and his cousin, Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, and Franklin’s wife, humanitarian Eleanor Roosevelt.

At the dawn of the 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt curbed the excesses of the Gilded Age and presided over some of the first regulatory laws to rein in the power of monopolies. He was a conservationist who established the National Park system. He oversaw the building of the Panama Canal. 

Franklin Roosevelt responded vigorously to the joblessness and desperation wrought by the Great Depression. He established a system of social security that has dramatically reduced poverty among the disabled and elderly. He mobilized the U.S. and forged the Grand Alliance that defeated Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.

Both Roosevelts came from wealthy families but wielded their power to curb the excesses of the rich. They were combative with opponents and continually appealed to the American people to rally support. (Are you listening, President Obama?) 

Eleanor Roosevelt was a writer and activist, constantly pushing her husband to do more for racial equality and women’s rights. After World War II, she chaired the U.N. committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948.

The Roosevelts lived during times of economic upheaval, intense political polarization and threats from forces abroad. None of their accomplishments came easily. They made great sacrifices to labor for the public good. Unselfish values, shrewd leadership and persistence fueled their successes.

Eleanor wrote: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

The Roosevelts knocked some sense into me. I need to stop singing with a demented fictional countess in a Broadway bomb and start emulating a real first lady who changed the world. 

I’m working on it.

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Wanted: Reward offered for arrest of burl poachers in Redwoods

Environmentalists are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of burl poachers stealing the prized patterned old-growth wood from California’s Redwoods.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Redwood Parks Association and Save the Redwoods League announced the reward.

Burls are large natural protrusions on the trees. They can weigh hundreds of pounds and bring thousands of dollars. They are most prolific on the oldest trees, and they play a critical role in the regeneration of the redwoods on the Pacific coast. Removing the burls exposes the heart of the tree to further damage and threatens wildlife.

California authorities have in the past year reported a spike in poaching in an already threatened region — due to commercial logging, less than 5 percent of California’s original old-growth forest remains.

“California’s ancient redwoods really are some of the world’s greatest treasures,” said Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope this reward will encourage people to come forward and help us bring an end to this appalling destruction so we can protect these beautiful trees for generations to come.”

Most of the old-growth redwoods in California are located in protected areas, either national or state parks.

“We are all responsible for protecting these magnificent trees and magical places,” said Sam Hodder, president and chief executive officer of Save the Redwoods League. “We will continue to work with our partners to create programs and protocols to prevent future destruction of our redwood parks and wildlife habitat.”

Coast redwoods regenerate one of two ways: from seedlings, which have a survival rate as low as 1 percent, and from burls, dormant bud material that develops in bumpy, bulbous knobs that can occur anywhere on the tree, most commonly near the ground. Redwood burls develop slowly as the tree grows, and can range from the size of a softball to several feet thick in diameter.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, when burls are cut from coast redwoods, the tree is injured in several ways:

1. Redwood bark provides a thick, insulating layer that protects the tree from insect infestation, fire and disease. By removing the bark and the cambium (the growing layer of the tree), the inner heartwood of the tree is exposed, increasing the risk of insect or fire damage and disease. The defacement of trees creates entry points for pathogens from which the tree may not recover. 

2. Since the burl is a primary tool for coast redwood reproduction, removing the burl may deny the tree its primary method of regeneration. A burl from a 2,000-year-old coast redwood can initiate growth of a new tree that can live for another 2,000 years, thus the Latin name for coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, which means “forever living.” 

3. If the cuts are extensive, as in a number of recent cases, the structural integrity of the tree can be weakened to a point where it is threatened by high winds, floods or saturated ground. In these situations the canopy of the tree can also suffer extensive dieback and reduced vigor, further stressing the tree.

Burl poaching involves the cutting, often with chainsaws, of burls from both live and dead trees, including the felling of living old-growth redwood trees to access burls higher up the stem. There has been an increase in poaching incidents in recent years, including:

The removal of a burl nearly 8 feet tall, 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep;

The removal of at least 15 burls, some as large as 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide;

The felling of a 150-foot-tall, 400-year-old tree 4 feet in diameter to reach a large burl about 50 feet above the ground;

The removal of 24 burls from five old-growth trees next to a park road.