Opinions

Saving Our National Parks, A Solutions Showcase Excerpt

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Arches National Park, Photo Credit: Howard Ignatius.

What Affects National Parks?

There are many different threats that face national parks. Protecting them and preserving them is becoming harder and harder. The threats aren’t just from people, but also natural disasters and other naturals factors. Some of these problems can be stopped, but others are inevitable, making their impact almost impossible to prevent. For example, lighting storms can cause wildfires. Also, keeping native animals in the parks where they can be protected is another challenge for national parks. The goal of parks is to preserve these special ecosystems and keep them as natural as possible.

When non-native species of plants and animals get into the parks, they cause destruction and disturb the natural ecosystem. Foreign species, when introduced to a new ecosystem, can take over because there are no natural predators to control the new species. These species can then take food and nutrients that others need and drive other species almost to extinction.

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Hidden Lake & Bearheart Mountain, Glacier National Park. Photo Credit: Travis, Flickr.

Climate change is a rising threat to parks. Glacier National Park, which has 25 glaciers in the park today, started with 150 glaciers. Different models have predicted that some of the park’s largest glaciers will be gone by 2030. Climate change doesn’t just affect glaciers though. Fire seasons will begin to become longer and more severe. Also another challenge for the park as climate change continues is keeping animals in the park. As temperatures change, animals may move around and migrate to find the temperature they are use to. Once the animals are out of the park, they cannot be protected.

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Yellowstone National Park, Photo Credit: Ester Lee

Another threat to national parks is development along their borders. Things like mining and clear-cut lumbering can cause problems with the air, water flow, and water quality in parks. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example, is seriously affected by air pollution. There, smog made by factories and industrial buildings outside the park is blown in and trapped by the mountains. These air problems can block out views, poison plants, and pollute water.

Other problems include everything from the overcrowding of people to non-maintained roads and trails. Still, people debate on allowing activities like snowmobiling and mountain biking in the parks. Yes, that might enhance a guest’s experience in some ways, but it can also be dangerous and take away from the natural aspects of the parks.

Written by freshman Greg Keidel as part of his Solutions Showcase Project.

Sources
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/national-parks-issues/
https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Threats-to-Wildlife/Invasive-Species.aspx
http://nrmsc.usgs.gov/research/glacier_retreat.htm