A recent study by the Center for Park Research found that the natural and cultural resources America set out to protect are being threatened by a host of new and long-standing threats.
Pollution, climate change, existing and proposed energy development, adjacent land development around the parks, and a legacy of poor maintenance due to funding shortfalls is contributing to an increasing degradation of the parks.
Highlights from the State of the Parks report include:
The conditions of the air, water & wildlife within the parks are suffering with 95 percent of parks assessed for natural resource conditions showing the disappearance of at least one wildlife or plant species from the area. Large predators such as gray wolves, mountain lions, and grizzly bears have disappeared across much of the American landscape and its parks.
More than half of the parks studied had overall air quality conditions that were fair, critical or poor. In some national parks, scenic vistas are obscured by air pollution that drifts in from near and far. The Grand Canyon National Park is one of six parks that had a pronounced problem with visibility – an indicator of the amount of air pollution within a park.
Other National Parks impacted by air pollution include Cabrillo National Monument, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and Big Bend, Great Smoky Mountains, and Joshua Tree National Parks.
Many of the parks studied showed severely polluted waterways due to sources outside of the park. Nearly one-third of the parks assessed also had sedimentation concerns resulting from development, agriculture, and other activities outside park boundaries.
Cultural resources in the National Park System— artifacts and structures that reflect America’s national heritage — are in serious trouble. The assessments found places and collections are being maintained in a condition well below the level that Americans expect.
In 91 percent of the parks surveyed, cultural resources were found to be in “fair” or “poor” condition. The problems affecting cultural resources occur across park designations and across regional divisions.
source: National Parks Conservation Association