“Environmental changes confronting the National Park System are widespread, complex, accelerating and volatile,” says a new report from the National Park Service. “These include biodiversity loss, climate change, habitat fragmentation, land use change, groundwater removal, invasive species, over development and air, noise and light pollution.”
The assessment is not good and on closer inspection, things only get worse.
In addition to the numerous natural challenges managers now face thanks to a changing climate, shifting ecosystems, and rising sea levels—to name only a few—there is the stark fiscal reality of soaring operational costs and shrinking federal budgets. The situation is severe enough that some analysts are predicting park closures.
All is not without hope, however. Gary Machlis, science advisor to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, explained that the “park service needs cohesive and coherent technology innovation policy so that available technology that’s already on shelf, that is at the cutting edge, could be employed without huge expense.” Another strategy park managers are exploring is using volunteers—like citizen scientists—to offset some of the cost.
And of course, there is no better way for citizens to show their support for the parks system than by paying a visit. Labor Day weekend seems like a fine time indeed.