Protecting New And Existing Parks For Next 100 Years

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center

There’s no better time than the 100th anniversary of our national park system to redouble our efforts to protect our country’s most spectacular natural areas.

Our top priorities this Centennial include:

#1 With its massive size, colorful walls, and breathtaking views, the Grand Canyon is one of the most amazing places on earth. But while the national park itself is protected against destructive activities like mining and drilling, the area surrounding it is not. That puts at risk North America’s largest old growth ponderosa pine forest, dozens of unique and endangered species such as the California condor and bighorn sheep, thousands of sacred Native American sites dating back millennia, and the Colorado River itself — which provides drinking water to more than 25 million people downstream.

As the price of uranium climbs, so too does the pressure to mine around the canyon. Indeed, within the last year an old mining claim has begun to be developed just six miles from the park’s South Rim.

To prevent future mining and drilling from further harming this region, we’re urging President Obama to designate 1.7 million acres around the park a new Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, a move supported by the public and a broad coalition of environmental groups, businesses, and Native American tribes.

This monument is just one at the top of our list, but Bears Ears in Utah, Gold Butte, the Central Coast of California, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and many other special places deserve protection, as well. All would fortify the already-incredible conservation legacy of the president, who’s safeguarded more land and sea than any other president before him with the creation of 23 national monuments to date, including Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments in New Mexico.

#2 Throughout the West, a network of politicians and special interest groups with ties to the Koch brothers are attempting to transfer our national public lands to state and local control – the first step, we and other critics argue, toward turning our public lands to private interests for their own short-term gain. Dozens of bills to achieve this goal have been introduced in state legislatures, and congressional leaders such as Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah) are also pushing similar measures in the halls of Washington, D.C. Decision-makers at all levels of government should flatly reject these thinly-veiled attempts at auctioning off our public lands to the highest bidder.

#3 If the National Park Service has its way, more Americans than ever before will visit our parks this year to celebrate the Centennial. But will our parks be ready with adequate facilities and enough rangers? When Congress returns from its long summer recess, we’ll be urging at least $1 billion in funding to address the substantial maintenance backlog to protect our treasured parks, trails, and recreation areas for the next 100 years.

For information about Environment New Mexico, click here.