With a view to covering the network of national parks in 2022 …

At the dawn of a new year in the national parks system, what will it bring? / Kurt Repanshek file

What will 2022 bring to the network of national parks? There are many unknowns, but there are also “known” ones, when it comes to what the National parks traveler will report. Here are some of the stories we’ll be following:

Big Cypress National Preserve Oil Exploration and Production

Where will the National Park Service stop at Burnett Oil Co.’s request to allow drilling for oil reserves under the reserve? The company has applied for permits to drill horizontal wells from platform sites along Interstate 75 between Fort Launderdale and Naples and another just north of US 41 where Collier counties meet, Broward and Miami-Dade.

Along with opposition from many conservation groups, the project was called into question by the Miccosukee tribe because of the cultural sites that could be affected, as well as possible environmental damage.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland will she withdraw the park service case by unilaterally blocking the project? Last March, a number of conservation organizations called on the secretary to block the project, saying “the proposed oil extraction activities would be detrimental to the objectives of the reserve and harm the reserve for the enjoyment of future generations. A new oil development in the Everglades would also be inconsistent with President Biden’s initiatives to tackle the climate crisis; protect public health; conserve our lands, waters and biodiversity; and ensure environmental justice. “

Of the sites proposed by Burnett, the groups said that both “are located in wetlands and the primary habitat of the Florida panther. These proposed oil wells and associated clearing, equipment storage, filling wetlands, hydrological changes, staging areas, access roads, drilling platforms, storage tanks, fuel tanks, water wells, disposal wells, reserve pits, leveling , erosion, sedimentation, and potential oil spills – at first glance – would be detrimental to the explicit objectives of the reserve. “

Rockets over the national coast of Cumberland Island

Will the day not come too far when a commercial spaceport less than five miles west of Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia launches rockets over the seashore?

The Federal Aviation Administration opened that door at the end of the month when it issued an operating license to Spaceport Camden. While the FAA has said there are many more regulatory hurdles the spaceport must overcome before a single rocket takes off, groups opposing the spaceport are working hard to block the project.

Four days before Christmas, a judge in Camden County, Georgia, issued a temporary restraining order preventing the county from purchasing about 4,000 acres formerly used by Union Carbide for the spaceport. A group of county residents opposed to the spaceport had presented Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett with petitions signed by about 4,000 residents asking for a county-wide referendum on whether the county of Camden is expected to launch rockets into space.

Accessible only by boat, the national coastline includes unspoiled beaches and dunes, freshwater marshes and lakes, and historic sites. Twisted holm oaks covered with resurrection ferns and Spanish moss make up the island’s maritime forest, shading an understory of sand palms and dwarf palms. Facing the mainland, the island looks out through mudflats at low tide and swaying marshes.

Concerned onlookers, who range from the National Park Service to the private owners of Little Cumberland Island on the northern end of the National Shoreline as well as Camden County taxpayers who see the spaceport as a huge waste of taxpayer dollars, have a whole series of fears.

Rockets may fail to launch and crash on the seashore or on Little Cumberland Island; air quality issues; noise pollution; dangerous waste; and the logistical impacts on coastal personnel.

Aerial tours over national parks

More than two decades after the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration were ordered by a federal judge to prepare air circuit management plans for flights over national parks, the work remains to be completed.

Since last summer, two dozen units in the park system, from Arches National Park to San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, have been working on their management plans. However, concerns were expressed by the Association for the Conservation of National Parks that the plans are inadequate and have so far not required in-depth environmental studies to judge the impact of flights on the visitor experience on the ground.

the Traveler was informed that at least four of the two dozen parks have decided to prepare environmental assessments on their interim management plans, but the names of these parks were not provided.

The crowds in the parks

If you went to Sion national park, Arches National Park, yellowstone national park, Grand canyon national park, Acadia National Park, Rocky mountain national park, Where Yosemite National Park, to name just seven parks, in the summer you know there are overcrowding issues.

Parks are starting to respond to these crowds with strategies to deal with them. Rocky Mountain, Yosemite and Acadia National Parks used reservation systems to deal with overcrowding last summer, and Rocky and Acadia will continue with them in 2022. Arches National Park will try this approach in the spring. , and Glacier National Park will continue with a ticketing system for visitors to travel the Going to the Sun Road and visit the North Fork area of ​​the park.

Zion does not limit visits to the park, but will require permits if you wish to climb to the top of Angels Landing. You will also need to pay $ 6 to participate in a lottery and obtain a permit, and successful permit holders will then pay a fee of $ 3 per person.

Will these plans reduce congestion and overcrowding in parks? Will other parks adopt similar reservation plans? the Traveler will continue to monitor these efforts.

Climate change in parks

As the climate continues to contort, it will continue to impact national park units. Drought in the Colorado River Basin has been going on since 2000, and although the onset of winter 2021-22 brought heavy snowfall to parts of the basin, drought is still not in sight.

AT Glen Canyon National Recreation Area consultants in Utah and Arizona are working with park staff to determine how boat launches can be extended to allow motorized boats (including barges) to safely embark on the Lake Powell.

What is the impact of rising sea levels on parks? Will there be more hurricanes hitting the east coast? Will there be more forest fires in the West? These are just a few of the stories we’ll be watching.

Director of the National Park Service Chuck Sams

For the first time since Jonathan Jarvis retired in January 2017 at the end of the Obama administration, the National Park Service has a Senate-confirmed director of Chuck Sams. And he has a lot of work to do.

In addition to seeing that the billions of dollars in Great American Outdoors Act funding and infrastructure funding are well spent, he wants to improve the morale of his vast workforce. According to 2020 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey, the Park Service ranks 353 out of 411 agencies in terms of the best agencies to work for. Only the Office of Indian Affairs ranks lower among the offices of the Ministry of the Interior.

There are undoubtedly many reasons for this low ranking – pay levels, housing, quality of life – but there have also been issues of harassment that the agency has grappled with.

the National Park Service Voices Report, launched in late 2017 with interviews with Park Service employees to find out the extent of harassment within the agency, was completed two years later. Then-Home Secretary Ryan Zinke called for an investigation after an investigation showed nearly 40% of the National Park Service’s workforce had been sexually harassed, intimidated or abused. discrimination.

As the Covid pandemic has slowed the dissemination of service-wide results, according to Park Service chief spokesperson Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles at Public employees for environmental responsibility officials claimed the report was intentionally “buried” to the detriment of the Park Service workforce.

“The Park Service has turned a deaf ear to a cry for help from its own workforce,” said Chandra Rosenthal, director of Rocky Mountain PEER, in November. “It is unlikely that the deep internal dysfunction described in the report improved but could have worsened.”

Sams also wants to address the aforementioned overcrowding issues by distributing visits through the park system to less visited units through a public relations campaign, a campaign that “is very inclusive in getting everyone into the parks so that ‘they can take advantage of these spaces.

The parks

Traveler journalists and contributors will, of course, continue to generate content from across the national park system to help you get the most out of your national park vacation. Whether you’re a hiker, paddler, camper, photographer, or just looking for rejuvenation in nature or introductions to American history, we’ll look for stories that match your needs.

Editor’s Postscript: If you enjoy and look forward to this cover, please donate to National Parks Traveler. It takes a lot of creativity, determination and, frankly, expense, to produce the kind of in-depth reporting that we strive for every day. It’s hard but essential work, and it’s readers like you who make it all possible.

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