Smokies on 'Most Endangered Parks' list fifth year in a row
By Staff and wire
January 15, 2003
WASHINGTON - Air pollution, motorized vehicles and nearby development plans threaten some of the nation's treasured national parks, adding to pressures from money woes and Bush administration policies, a park advocacy group says.
The National Parks Conservation Association on Tuesday released its annual list of "America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks," which includes some reprised from previous years because of what the group calls persistent problems.
"Designation as a national park alone doesn't protect our parks," NPCA senior vice president Ronald J. Tipton said. "Parks also need strong support from the president and Congress."
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park made the list because of its status as the most air-polluted park in the nation.
Don Barger, executive director of the Southeast regional office of the National Parks Conservation Association, said the Smokies' inclusion on the list for the fifth year in a row might have a silver lining.
"People are now aware that the park has a serious air pollution problem," Barger said. "Air pollution in the park also affects communities. It's not just an eco-system problem, it's also our lungs."
The list includes Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, where nearby private land sales could encroach on wildlife habitat; Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, where wilderness could be opened to motorized access and a new route approved into the park.
It also includes Joshua Tree National Park in California, where an adjacent new city may sprout; Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, facing air pollution and invasive species; and Virgin Islands National Park, troubled by fragile coral reefs and declining fish populations.
Parks that made the list this year and last are Everglades National Park in Florida, with questions about management and funding; Glacier National Park in Montana, because of development, infrastructure problems and global warming; Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia, threatened by a decaying archaeological collection and a proposed highway; and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, with air pollution and noise from snowmobiles.
Elaine Sevy, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said the Bush administration appreciates the group's efforts to bring attention to park problems.
But she said the administration but does not agree with all the group's findings, such as snowmobiles at Yellowstone, which the administration believes can be safely managed using the latest technology.