Fixing our National Parks = 100,000+ New Jobs

Number of jobs per state

A Pew-commissioned analysis by the Cadmus Group, a consulting company, found that addressing the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion maintenance backlog would create or support nearly 110,000 infrastructure-related jobs. This number, based on fiscal year 2017 NPS data, is a reminder of the powerful economic impact of national parks…

If NPS’ deferred maintenance was fully funded, communities could see construction workers repairing roads and trails, preservation experts restoring deteriorating historic sites, and engineers overhauling outdated sewer, water, and electrical systems that can threaten safety and the environment.

RTFA. Reflect that the Republican Party – which has adopted the fake president – will try their best not only to oppose maintaining and repairing our national parks, they will go along with Trump and try to shut them down and turn the land over to drilling rigs and coal mines.

Republican Congress raises price for senior National Park passes 800%

❝ As Cathy Morin neared her 62nd birthday last month, she knew she was just about to qualify for one of the country’s best bargains. For just $10, senior citizens can buy passes that give them lifetime entry to national parks and other public lands as well as discounts on campgrounds and other amenities.

Around her birthday, she learned that she’d have to move quickly to take advantage of that deal. The pass has cost $10 since 1994, but in December, Congress voted to increase the price to $80. On July 10, in the middle of their busiest season, the National Park Service announced the new price would start on August 28. So at the end of July, Morin hustled over to a U.S. Forest Service office about 10 miles away from her home, Conejos Peak Ranger District, which is part of the Rio Grande National Forest in southwestern Colorado. “You might as well save $70,” says Morin, a retired former hospital worker. “Once you’re retired and on a limited income, that looks like a really good deal.”…

And that’s what it’s all about, folks. Unless you’re in a tax bracket protected by Congressional pimps, the first thing you better learn about retirement is how to search for a deal. You live in a society that considers retirement, healthcare, a privilege – not a right. Tough enough we still have to fight for education and opportunity for the generations to follow, we must be on guard in the months following an election cycle when the reality of campaign-lies is dissolved in puddles of green controlled by lobbyists for corporate America.

❝ The passes can be used at more than 2,000 sites, including wildlife refuges, national forests and places run by the Bureau of Land Management. They’re good for any people traveling in the same passenger vehicle as a passholder or for three additional adults.

The U.S. Geological Survey, which processes the requests for passes, is overwhelmed. Currently, it takes 12 weeks for people who apply to receive the passes. In the meantime, the receipts are good for entry and discounts.

RTFA for details and motivation to get while the getting is good. Sure, the mid-term elections may bring a reversal of the fools who believed the Trumpkin lies along with the usual Republican hustle. Maybe Democrats will develop some backbone if for nothing more than fear of being displaced by Bernie-style progressives. Either road, you should have learned by now that Establishment politics at all levels of government are good for what they promise if you stay ready to do some arm-twisting.

Koch Bros flunky opposes more national parks


…Throughout the national park system, an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance is eroding the visitor experience and threatening the very resources that the National Park Service was created to protect. Earlier this year, the park service announced that the cost of deferred maintenance had reached $11.5 billion…

Despite this, in December President Obama effectively spread the maintenance budget even thinner by adding seven new parks totaling approximately 120,000 acres to the park system. The administration also supports reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which devotes up to $900 million annually from offshore oil and gas leases to federal land acquisitions and state recreational grants — but nothing explicitly for the maintenance of our federal lands.

Adding more land to the federal estate is irresponsible when the government is failing to maintain the parks, forests and grazing lands it currently owns. Rather than using the conservation fund to acquire more land, Congress should use the money to help address the deferred maintenance backlog.

True conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have, not insatiably acquiring more and hoping it manages itself.

Advocates for reauthorizing the conservation fund, including the Interior Department, point to broad public support for public land acquisition, particularly for private holdings within park boundaries and other ecologically sensitive parcels threatened by development. However, federal land agencies can acquire these priority parcels in a revenue-neutral manner by swapping them with other federal lands, leaving the land and water conservation money for critical maintenance and repairs.

Reed Watson, the executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center blthers on with sophistry for a spell – then, gets to his point:

First, Congress should stop acquiring more land and use the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help pay down the deferred maintenance backlog. Second, Congress should renew and expand the authority of federal land agencies that oversee our parks, forests and rangelands to charge user fees and allow those fees to be used at the locations where they were collected.

No thought given to reordering priorities on how our government spends its whole budget.

The Park Service budget for fiscal year 2015 is $2.6 billion – less than 1/10th of 1% of the federal budget. At the same time all of the regular activities of the Department of Defense are projected to consume 54% of all federal discretionary spending, or $598.5 billion out of a total of $1.1 trillion.

Might we consider withdrawing the taxpayer subsidies in the billion$ we hand over to fossil fuel companies? Nope, flunkies like Watson spend their lobbying time before Congress and the public prating about more efficient use of the pittance set aside for nature’s natural heritage in the United States. In the heart of hearts of creeps like the Koch Bros, there is nothing they’d like better than ignoring real conservation – until after they’ve sucked every bit of carbon from the ground and stuffed it into the air we breathe.

Fire guru ponders Yellowstone 1988 – and now

understory regrowth 2013
Click to enlargeJ.Klinger
25 years of regrowth following the 1988 “Summer of Fire” Yellowstone wildfires

We don’t need added evidence to know that if this weird, dry balminess persists there’s going to be woodsmoke muting the mountains this summer, wreaking havoc. Some prognosticators believe the 2015 fire season could be epic.

Harbingers are everywhere in the West, from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, which is dealing with severe shortages of fresh water. With conditions here starting to resemble those of 1988, the year of the historic Yellowstone fires, I decided to make a call to a civil servant who was in the thick of it.

Research botanist Dr. Don Despain, known for his work as a fire ecologist who spent nearly three decades with Yellowstone and the U.S. Geological Survey, was always a calming voice, even during that summer 27 years ago when politicians demanded he be fired…

Despain has always been a straight shooter, never an alarmist. Back in 1988 the first Yellowstone fire, a small one, started at Storm Creek on June 14. Nobody worried much. Nine days later came the Shoshone Fire. And then the Fan and the Red. Based on moisture conditions in late June 1988, Despain believed the worst-case scenario was that no more than 40,000 acres might burn in the 2 million-acre park before rain and snow arrived in the fall.

But subsequent weeks of unrelenting heat coupled with high winds, dry-storm lightning strikes setting off new conflagrations and a major human-cased blaze that spread into the park blew up to claim 800,000 acres. Total firefighting costs were a record $120 million.

Despain became immortalized after he brought reporter Jim Carrier of The Denver Post to a forest study plot near Ice Lake. The site was established to allow researchers to gauge how fire, drought and disease affect arboreal ecology.

As a wildfire approached and swept across his research area, Despain playfully muttered, “Burn, baby, burn.” His quote was included in Carrier’s story, but a headline writer bannered the words as if Despain were a pyro, not caring if the entire park went up in flames. Wyoming politicians, including U.S. Sens. Malcolm Wallop and Alan K. Simpson, had a field day skewering park officials.

Despain was ordered to not talk to reporters for two weeks. As summer wore on and the blazes expanded, he spoke up again and reminded that everything, in the long run, would be all right.

Today, looking back, he notes that while his touting of fire’s vital role in rejuvenating landscapes wasn’t popular, time has vindicated him…

Despain scoffs at those who say major fires can be suppressed, either through human resources and huge amounts of money or through the ruse that fires can be prevented by thinning forests to reduce fuel loads.

Any vegetation, be it tree or grass, that becomes flammable from lack of moisture is going to burn if exposed to lightning or a match. He senses that the Smokey Bear mentality of trying to control nature is being resurrected. Just as it did in the past, the mind-set will cause more problems than it solves, and at breathtaking expense to taxpayers…

Despain supports the creation of zoned “fire plains” in the wildland-urban forest interface just like “flood plains” along rivers that prescribe where humans should build and where not.

Way too sensible for a lot of politicians. They’re not interested in history measured over the epoch life of a forest – if it conflicts with the requirements of campaign donors or subdivision developers.

Like most environmental issues in today’s United States this will take a combination of natural disasters and grassroots pressure to resolve. Understand that the predictable response to disasters is legislation like the so-called Patriot Act and grassroots pressure includes cattle-grazers and strip-miners who think of themselves as the “real” grassroots of America.

Don Despain just may be crying in the wilderness. Trying to change the behavior of people who think anywhere without an eight-lane highway is wilderness.