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American National Park Service and Wildlife Essay

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Updated: Dec 27th, 2019

The Organic Act signed on August 25, 1916, created a law that for the effective management of national parks. The law reads in part: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (United States National Park Service 10).

A close reading of the law will reveal that the National Park Service and other outdoor management agencies have to focus on two key areas in park management. First of all, there is a need to preserve natural resources. Secondly, there is a need to provide means for people to recreate within the park.

This mandate is easy to understand but at the same time it creates conflict in terms of managing the parks. It is therefore important to focus on conservation. If the parks are damaged beyond repair, then there is nothing that can be used for recreation.

The Organic Act was signed in 1916 but it was not the first law in favor of conservation. On May 7, 1894, the U.S. Congress approved a piece of legislation that paved the way for the creation of the Yellowstone National Park. This law changed the way Americans view nature and wildlife. It was a landmark law made more interesting by the fact that 19th century America is not yet as urbanized as it is today.

Therefore, the need for conservation, although an important endeavor, was not yet an urgent matter. There were still large tracts of land to explore and tame. At the same time there were fewer people back then. Furthermore, the industrialization of the United States was still at its early stage.

There were only a few urban centers and pollution levels were low. When the law was signed, cars and airplanes were not yet popular means of transportation.

It is therefore important to point out the other reason why national parks were created in 1894. An evaluation of the events that led to the ratification of the 1894 law can help explain the two-tiered mandate that calls for conservation and recreation.

It will also help clarify the need to support the primary purpose of conservation and not recreation. It is interesting to find out that the 1894 law that led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park was a political act:

The rise in attention to nature coincided with the search for identity and pride among American literati. When compared to Europe’s thousands of years of history, its fabric of ancient structures and sites, its rich cultural legacy built on many centuries of interchange, the United States appeared a rude, uncultured backwater …

Americans looked for elements in their own land to flaunt. In Yellowstone and Yosemite, Americans had what they needed (Dilsaver 7).

The insight provided by these statement helps explain the true meaning of the Organic Act and the reason why it has to incorporate two conflicting statements regarding conservation and recreation. It is now easy to understand that national parks were never created solely for conservation purposes only.

National parks were also established due to the need to show the world a facet of American identity. But if forced to choose between the two, conservation must be the top priority of the government.

Conservation vs. Recreation

The most important thing to consider is the conservation of the environment. A damaged environment takes years to rehabilitate. In the case of trees that are centuries old it may take several generations before authorities can bring it back to its natural beauty. The government and civic leaders have a moral responsibility to take care of the environment because the present generation is a mere steward of natural resources.

They are not supposed to utilize, exploit, and consume natural resources without thinking of the future generation. They are also entitled to enjoy the natural beauty of national parks. It is the responsibility of the present generation to take care of the environment for the future generation of nature lovers.

On the other hand, it is easy to understand why national parks do not exist for the sake of conservation alone. The name itself suggests that national parks must be accessed by people. If this is not the case then authorities should rename national parks and call it restricted areas. A desperate attempt to protect the environment from poachers and vandals can lead to laws that will prohibit the enjoyment of said national parks.

This must not be permitted because restricted access to these parks means that this area no longer serves its purpose. It can be argued that conservation efforts can be greatly enhanced if people are taught to appreciate nature. They can only appreciate the beauty of nature if they are allowed access to national parks.

Restricted access will result in an expensive government project. It cannot pay for itself and becomes a burden to society. The funds generate by the parks must be wisely used to strengthen conservation efforts. If the government closes the national parks then the funding will quickly dry up.

It will become a project that is too expensive to sustain. At the same time there is no need to spend millions of dollars for their upkeep if people are not allowed to hike through the trails, take pictures, and observer the works of Mother Nature. It is therefore crucial to develop creative strategies to balance the need for conservation and recreation.

Recommendations

The ideal solution is to temporarily shutdown national parks in order to protect it from the impact of human activity. The purpose is to elevate its status as a protected area and therefore keep it in a pristine state, untouched by the destructive forces of human intervention. But in the 21st century Americans and foreigners long for adventure. They clamor for ways to break the monotony of urban living.

It is therefore impossible for the government to prevent eco-tourism in these areas. Nevertheless, it is important to take note of the following issues in order to develop strategies to balance conservation efforts with the need to showcase national parks. According to one report the following are some of the negative impacts of human intrusions in national parks:

  1. Animals are being killed by motorists and this includes elk, mule deer and wolves;
  2. Health issues for wildlife caused by humans included the risk of disease transference;
  3. Disturbance to animal hunting, feeding or undertaking other routines making other sensitive species to forgo the use of critical habitat for nesting or foraging resulting in increased mortality or decline in health, fecundity and population levels;
  4. Other problems include poor waste management, food refuse and feeding of animals which can greatly affect the ecosystem of the park; and
  5. Indirect effects of tourism are seen through fires, vehicles damaging the soil, noise and construction of facilities which not only spoils the landscape but adds to the pollution (Newsome 26).

Human intrusions must be minimized. It is important to study the impact of communities established near national parks and find out if there is a practical way to relocate them. The entry of vehicles in the area must be significantly reduced to the bare minimum.

The designated area where vehicles can park and facilities can be constructed must also be drastically reduced. But aside from minimizing direct human intrusion, it is also important to eliminate other factors that contribute to the rapid degradation of national parks.

The problems mentioned above are the results of direct intrusions by humans. However, there are actions that create an indirect impact to the conservation of natural resources. A good example of indirect intrusion was the destruction of coyotes in Yellowstone National Park.

There was a time when people feared the presence of coyotes in national parks (Lindenmayer & Fischer 12). The coyotes were hunted down. The authorities were oblivious to the fact that they are upsetting the delicate ecological balance of the park (Prato & Fagre 25).

The recommendations made can greatly affect ecotourism. It is important to also consider the value of ecotourism even if there is a need to limit human intrusions. Although it is of crucial important to intensify conservation efforts, it must be made clear that the Organic Act was a law that allows for conservation and recreation. It is also important to consider sustainability.

These parks generate funds that can be used for their upkeep. According to one report, “Ecotourism generates as much as $20 billion in revenue each year” and a significant portion of that is generated in U.S. national parks (Newsome, 27). There is a need to improve management techniques and conservation strategies but it is also necessary to allow people to recreate within these parks.

One strategy is to educate visitors so that they will do their best to limit activities that directly affect the natural environment. It is therefore important to share the burden and not simply depend on the actions of the U.S. National Park Service.

Conclusion

National parks are places that showcase the natural treasures of the United States. Thus, it is important to conserve these areas and at the same time allow for recreational activities. There is a need to limit human intrusions but at the same time there is a need for open access to national parks. It is a difficult challenge for conservationists and managers of national parks.

There is a need to carefully balance these two goals. Conservation efforts are enhanced if more people come to appreciate the beauty of national parks. They will not be able to know if they are not allowed to explore the mountains and streams.

They will not be able to appreciate if they are not allowed to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. On the other hand unrestricted access can destroy the environment. It is difficult to accomplish both goals. However, the Organic Act of 1916 allows conservation efforts and recreational activities.

Works Cited

Dilsaver, Lary. America’s National Park System: The Critical Documents. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1994.

Lindenmayer, David and Joern Fischer. Habitat Fragmentation and Landscape Change: An Ecological and Conservation Synthesis. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2006.

Newsome, David. Wildlife Tourism. New York: Channelview Publications, 2005.

Prato, Tony and Dan Fagre. National Parks and Protected Areas: Approaches for Balancing Social, Economic and Ecological Values. Iowa: Blackwell Publishing Professional, 2005.

U.S. National Park Service. Management Policies 2006. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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