The US National Parks system as a political pawn causing untold damage

The current Government shutdown in the USA caused by the political dispute over President Trump’s demand for funding for a wall along the US border with Mexico is having significant negative effects on the historic environment and nature conservation of the ‘treasured’ National Parks system, as well as related agencies falling within the realm of the Department of the Interior.

During this shutdown 80% of the employees of the NPS have been furloughed, leaving only skeleton staff mainly for policing and security.

It has been reported that the National Parks Service is losing $400,000 per day by not collecting admissions revenue where parks and heritage sites charge, quite apart from wider revenue lost from concessions, campgrounds, retail and hospitality. There have been widespread reports of significant human health, pollution and threats to nature and ecosystems, with sanitation sites overflowing and litter not being collected. Questions have also been asked on why sites have been left accessible, rather than simply closing the various NPS units/sites altogether.

Maintenance backlogs and acute maintenance/management issues are building due to the impact of weather at this time of the year also. It is not a pretty picture – foremost for the dedicated NPS staff who are not being paid, many of which are trying to keep things going on a voluntary basis, secondly for the long-term damage being done to the natural and cultural resources of the Park System which has been heralded as “America’s Best Idea”, and thirdly for the unfortunate political circumstances whereby the environment (in its broadest form) comes low down in the pecking order when Government faces a crisis.

The Lake District and UNESCO World Heritage Status

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Castlerigg Stone Circle © David Gill

The Lake District in north-west England was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 [UNESCO]. The listing notes, “a distinctive cultural landscape which is outstanding in its harmonious beauty, quality, integrity and on-going utility and its demonstration of human interaction with the environment”.

The Save the Lake District group wishes to protect this internationally recognised landscape from any further damage. The group is calling on the Lake District National Park to take steps to protect this fragile environment. The issue surrounds the use of the so-called ‘Green Roads‘.

The concerns are covered by the BBC: “Lake District authority ‘violating World Heritage status’“, BBC News 14 April 2018.