Posts Tagged ‘national parks’

A summer home for the rest of us

September 7, 2010

Thomas Moran, Tower Creek, Yellowstone National Park, 1871

For the last several weeks, we have been deep in the frenetic editorial season for Land&People magazine. These busy times as we put together the magazine are even more difficult since the advent of LandNotes.   I can hear the blog whining like a neglected puppy: pet me, pet me, I need attention, too!

So it is a happy occurrence when a Land&People obligation and a blog posting line up. One of the stories we are working on for the next issue is about the importance of federal conservation. The article, by frequent land Land&People contributor Todd Wilkinson, discusses the reasons that the federal government should continue acquiring land—especially the private inholdings that dot our national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.

Now comes an opinion piece by Timothy Egan on the New York Times blog that makes an eloquent case for the importance of these federal lands to all Americans. Egan, a former Times staffer and a friend of TPL, is a stylish and articulate writer. This piece—part sermon, part essay—takes as its central conceit that our national parks and other federal lands are “summer homes” for all of us.

During the bittersweet days of September light, when a low-angled sun is unwavering in its withdrawal, I always have trouble saying goodbye. How to shutter the season? How to close the summer home with a memory to last through the dark months?

Growing up, I looked with nose pressed against a mythic window of class at those who played in their waterfront compounds at Hayden Lake in Idaho. And when I came of age, I heard about the Hamptons and Cape Cod, Aspen and the San Juan Islands, where the zip code itself was supposed to guarantee happiness.

We had nothing to call a second home, and then I saw in a month’s travel that we had everything. Not long after I was old enough to cast my first vote, I realized that with American citizenship came a birthright to my summer home.

We have heard these paeans to the national parks and public lands before, of course, including in the Ken Burns documentary special on the parks last year. But this is a particularly lovely piece that makes the case yet again for the unique gift of land that has been passed down to all of us.

The immensity often gets lost in the superlatives stirred up by the most outrageously scenic sites. But in the aggregate, this is what every citizen owns: 530 million acres, of which 193 million are run by the Forest Service, 253 million by the Bureau of Land Management and 84 million by the National Park Service. The public land endowment is more than three times the size of France.

Worth the read. Now for me, it’s back to Land&People, available by free subscription here.

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Yes – more people are living near conserved lands

December 29, 2009

New homes near Truckee, CA - Photo: Rich Reid

It’s nice when an academic study confirms what you thought you knew all along.   So it is a much-cited study that appeared last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about housing development near parks, wilderness areas, and conserved lands.  

The title of the study pretty much says it all: “Housing growth in and near United States protected areas limits their conservation value.”  A  summary  can be found on the New York Times website.  Or the entire document in PDF can be found here

Funded by the U.S. Forest Service, the study was conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin, the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Rocky Mountain Research Station.  

Our study shows that housing growth in and near US protected areas has been strong for 6 decades, and that lands near protected areas are attractive for development. If development continues unabated, it will further limit the conservation value of protected areas, and biodiversity will be impoverished. Management tools and land-use policies exist to ameliorate development threats, but historic housing growth suggests that these tools have either not been implemented or have not been successful in redirecting housing growth away from protected areas. Stronger efforts focusing on housing development within and near protected areas are needed if the conservation benefits of protected areas are to be enjoyed by future generations. 

While conservationists may not have had access to the convincing data in this paper, they have been focused for years on preventing inappropriate development near and within national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas.  For example, this is one of the prime goals of  such TPL efforts as the Montana Legacy Project and the Sierra Checkerboard Initiative

Coincidently  a story in the Oregon Buisness Times highlights wildlands development in that state and efforts to create community forests on private timber lands that might otherwise be developed.  

Oregon loses an average of 2,600 acres of wildland forest a year, 80 percent of which is converted to low-density residential, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. 

“Economically, those counties are going to be better off if that land doesn’t go to development,” says economist Ray Rasker, who studied the impact of development in Montana’s forests. “From a firefighting standpoint, any tax benefit would be outstripped pretty quickly.” 

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A national park for Kansas?

December 2, 2009

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

According to the National Park Service, the flat, square state near the middle of the country is home to four national historic sites and a national prairie preserve and is crossed by five national historic trails.  But it has never had a national park. 

Now two of state’s major newspapers–The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle–are editorializing to revive the spirit of a two-decade old idea and create a million-acre Buffalo Commons National Park in the northwest portion of the state. 

In an attention-getting 1987 essay, Frank J. Popper and Deborah Popper suggested something much grander: returning 10 or 20 million acres of prairie to its native state, a notion met with derision within the region that would have been affected.   

Among the reasons cited by the newspapers for reviving the idea are the economic benefits a park would bring to a section of the state that is rapidly losing population and the value of intact prairie for sequestering carbon.   

Today, Buffalo Commons — far from threatening an iconic American lifestyle — may instead be a savior to the region

 writes the Star’s editorial board.

The biggest asset of the region is its heritage, the prairie. The romance of an open space to the horizon — home to grazing bison, antelope, elk and deer — is the American story in a nutshell. Land as vast and open as an ocean.

The Star also notes that full funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, now proposed in Congress, might supply the “less than $1 billion” that would be needed for land acquisition.

Read more at: The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle

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A new home for a lived-in park

October 29, 2009

Photo: Vino Wong / Atlanta Journal Constitution

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is an unusual conservation project.  It honors the memory of the civil rights leader while it seeks to rehabilitate his former neighborhood, a thriving center of African-American commerce and culture in the early decades of the 20th century. 

Which explains why a vintage Studebaker was parked outside 530 Auburn Avenue in Atlanta yesterday, as that home was officially added to the park in a 1930s-syle celebration.  Many of the 13 properties TPL has helped add to the park have been rehabilitated and serve as homes today.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution carried a story by Ernie Suggs:

In a world of ironies, the latest piece of property to become an official part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site was birthed in conflict.

In 1936, a woman named Jettie Nowell purchased the rambling two story home at 530 Auburn Avenue. It was right down the street from both Ebenezer Baptist Church and the home of the church’s pastor, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. who lived in tidy yellow house with his wife and three little children.

But 10 minutes after the real estate agent sold the home to Nowell, he sold it to another family.

“Two people bought the same house at the same time,” said Gail Goodwin, the great-granddaughter of Nowell. “So that night they both came to claim it. My family ended up sleeping inside the house and other family – all of them – laid out mattresses and slept in the front yard.”

A judge finally settled the matter and the Nowell family has lived in the home ever since.

“That 10 minutes saved us,” Goodwin said. “That is why we have this legacy today.”

Read on at the Atlanta Journal Constitution

More information on the Georgia pages of TPL’s website

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