Grand problems at Grand Canyon?
A series of man-made threats could cause serious problems for Grand Canyon National Park in the coming years, according to a new report by a conservation group.
A new "State of the Parks" report by the National Parks Conservation Association suggests a series of emerging or recurring issues inside and near the 1.5 million acre park could disturb its natural beauty and appeal.
Among the findings:
-- The Colorado River, which cuts through the park, is poorly managed to deal with protecting fish populations, the river flow and cultural and archaeological sites along the river corridor.
-- Popular flights over the park are impacting the park's natural quiet, upsetting park visitors, wildlife and the activities of the park's 11 affiliated American Indian tribes.
-- The potential for new mines near the park and environmental contamination from previous mines are a cause for concern.
-- Air pollution from areas hundreds of miles away has the potential to impact the park's scenic views, damage plants and impact visitor and employee health.
Not surprisingly, the report calls for more money and manpower for the Grand Canyon's ranger staff.
"The resources and assets at Grand Canyon National Park and the National Park Service staff that manage them are both under intense pressure," the report concludes. "Efforts to protect the park are compromised by profound financial shortfalls, legal and political ambiguities that seek to or have the effect of limiting park authority, and external threats that require acknowledgment of the problems and a willingness to confront them."
Grand Canyon Park Supervisor Steve Martin said he generally agrees with the report's findings.
“Certainly we have our hands full with a number of really significant issues," Martin said. "I think that a lot of what we’re doing is trying to work with the administration to educate the new team that they brought in about the significance of these issues and the importance of these issues.”
Grand Canyon is the National Park Service's second-most popular park, with about 4.5 million visitors annually (Great Smoky Mountains Park is the most visited). The National Park Service's 392 parks are experiencing another visitor boom this year, thanks to the economic slump and a series of fee-free weekends.
Interestingly, new technologies are also causing problems for the entire National Park Service: Visitors using video cameras are inching perilously close to animals, other visitors in remote areas are calling park rangers asking them to deliver refreshments, including hot chocolate. Some are venturing too far into parks, wrongly assuming their GPS devices will guide them back.
“Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued,” said a Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman told the New York Times.
Park officials should devote more time to the changing behaviors of visitors, but their time is stretched thin by other priorities, Martin said.
"We end up reacting more than acting," to the changes, he said.
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| August 24, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener
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