Opinion – What an extraordinary week our national parks have been through! From a hiring freeze to gag orders to Twitter rebellions, our parks are certainly getting attention.
Here in Wisconsin, we know a little bit about what our national parks are going through and various states have been down this road even before us. Right now, we can’t really be sure if our Wisconsin DNR is re-organizing or being torn apart! Of course our state parks are caught in the middle of it! This comes on top of losing state funding in the last budget. Oh, and of course you can’t say words like “climate change” in Wisconsin either. One thing is becoming clear, every one of us, politically right, left or indifferent will need to decide what our parks and public lands mean to us (Again). It seems we’ll be forced to.
In 2016, there were more than 325 million visits to national parks. There really is no question that our parks are important to our nation. In fact, our national parks are one of the few selfless, non-partisan, bits of shared heritage that we generally all agree on. Even so, our national parks are understaffed and underfunded with more than $12 billion in backlogged park maintenance & 437 open full-time positions sitting out there. (Let’s not even talk about our state parks!) Even in good times, we can’t seem to find a way to fund our parks! This should bother us. Somewhere there is a disconnect between the citizens that use the parks, us, and those we elect & hire to protect and administer our parks for us. We’ve got to fix this. Sure, there’s a thousand things that we can argue about, but our parks shouldn’t be one of them.
We all deserve our rest and our vacations. (Something our Wisconsin Department of Tourism is promoting right now!) We all deserve well maintained trails, safe campgrounds and clean bathrooms. Our parks are more than conservation & education, they are also our rest and our reward for working together to create our vibrant economy that the decision makers are profiting from. I’m reminded of when George Bailey said to Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, “Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?” There couldn’t be a better metaphor for our parks today!
I also wanted to touch on the so-called “Twitter Rebellion” rebellion by national park staff. It started with Badlands National Park and became a national movement in of itself. The best response to this event came from Popular Science Magazine in an article called “TAKE IT FROM A FORMER PARK RANGER: NO ONE IS GOING ROGUE“. Talking about the environment is simply what our park rangers are expected to do. Really, you can’t ban or gag science. You look silly for trying. As Neil deGrasse Tyson, a respected American astrophysicist said; “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Or whether you “gag” it or not, I might add!
It’s been tried….
On June 22, 1633 Galileo was convicted of heresy for holding the belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun. He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition. He was sentenced and remained under house arrest for the rest of his life. It took more than 300 years to formally clear his name of heresy.
Something to think about as we head into our weekend.
Additional ref: ICYMI: The Outdoor Report, Motherboard, USA Jobs,
Disclaimer: And of course, my crazy opinions are my own and often caused by too many hours of isolation in the deep dark woods. My posts certainly don’t represent the opinions of the Wisconsin DNR or any other group, organization or book club.