Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.
Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.
A spokesman for the National Park Service, David Barna, said it was Jon Jarvis, the top federal parks official, who made the “decision to put it on hold until we can get more information…”
Mr. Martin, a 35-year veteran of the park service who had risen to the No. 2 post in 2003, was disheartened by the outcome. “That was upsetting news because of what I felt were ethical issues surrounding the idea of being influenced unduly by business,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “It was even more of a concern because we had worked with all the people who would be truly affected in their sales and bottom line, and they accepted it…”
A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Susan Stribling, said the company would rather help address the plastic litter problem by increasing the availability of recycling programs. “Banning anything is never the right answer,” she said…
Discarded plastic bottles account for about 30 percent of the park’s total waste stream, according to the park service. Mr. Martin said the bottles are “the single biggest source of trash” found inside the canyon.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. One of the significant differences between services responsible for America’s parks and landholdings is the history of battles just like this one. Going back to the days of Reagan’s slavish attitude towards corporate demands, some agencies like the Bureau of Land Management have been led by dedicated rank-and-file employees to confront sellouts. The Park Service continues to be controlled by bureaucrats perfectly willing to be bought – directly or indirectly.
RTFA for more details – if you can stomach the same old political rationales.