Month 4, Day 17: National Park POTUS

RL Miller writes about President Obama’s approach to our national park system, and provides me with fodder for a letter. Too tired to write eloquently; I’m falling asleep at the keyboard.

Dear President Obama,

It was great to learn of your memorandum addressing “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.” It is crucial that we as a nation learn to conserve our land and natural resources, integrating state, local, and tribal leadership with federal support and partnerships. Most important for those of us who pay attention to news on climate issues is your commitment to “use science-based management practices to restore and protect our lands and waters for future generations.” That’s good news; science-based management is reality-based management, something the previous administration could have used a lot more of.

While it’s absolutely crucial to build conservation initiatives from the local level up, the role of the federal government is crucial. Teddy Roosevelt, as you remarked, made America’s national park system into one of our greatest resources, and he did it through decisive use of the powers of the federal government; while his use of the Antiquities Act in creating national monuments was criticized as socialistic (sound familiar?), his bold vision preserved the Grand Canyon.

The input of local residents is important — but familiarity may breed contempt, leading locals to take a priceless national resource for granted. By all means, talk with local residents, but remember that they’re citizens of a nation. Bold and resolute action in the conservation of our natural resources is essential.

Most important for the long run is to restore a love of the land and the environment to the American people. We should expand our National Park system, increase hiking trails and allocate federal funds for schoolchildren’s field trips up the mountains. Many city dwellers have no access to our beautiful open spaces, and children especially suffer terribly from “nature deprivation syndrome.”

If we are to have a hope of addressing the terrible threat posed by global climate change, we must make it possible for every citizen to know and love our country’s natural resources. While they are vital for tourism, and for their own intrinsic beauty, our national parks and forests are also part of the struggle against climate change: they’re “carbon banks,” capturing carbon in the form of trees, keeping it from entering the atmosphere. Trees and forests are our first line of defense against global warming, which is why it’s crucial that all proposals for acquiring wilderness must be evaluated on the carbon absorption of the land — its carbon footprint.

The damage that has already been done by political pandering to crass anti-environment interests is incalculable. For the sake of our parks, our forests, our country, our citizens and our planet, I hope your words about “science-based management practices” are matched by your actions.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders