As I read on your website, you recently gave a presentation about theft from National Parks. In your opinion, what is the biggest threats facing our national parks today? Is it sticky-fingered visitors? Underfunding? Environmental threats?
The most serious and overwhelming threat is that to our environment. What affects our world directly impacts the resources in our parks. Global warming, air quality, habitat reduction around out parks’ borders are very real and immediate and require universal and regional solutions.
Politically our National Parks face numerous threats. Inadequate funding not only reduces the services visitors receive, but also results in continued infrastructure and resource degradation.
There are also threats to the concept of protected public lands due to political and special interests. There continue to be proposals by individuals, groups, and politicians to turn federally protected lands back to state and local governments. This is often mislabeled as “giving them back to the people.” I would argue that this concept would remove or reduce access to a smaller group with special interests that will make money for small parties at a sacrifice for the rest of us. Examples would include local governments wanting control of federally protected lands so they can be leased or sold for energy exploration or ranching. Even some lands managed by the National Park Service are drawing such attention.
On the ground level in parks resources are threatened by over use, neglect, and theft or conversion for personal gain. The theft of wildlife, plants, minerals, and historic resources is increasing. Lack of funding means that there are less Park Rangers in the field to protect these resources, monitor damage, and prevent crimes against us all as owners and custodians of our National Parks.