Thursday, January 21, 2016

National Park Law - Knopf and Stegner

Those who would protect the Parks and Monuments must rest their case always on the organic law that created the National Park Service. Any attempt to change that law would certainly bring on an instant and nation-wide and wholly bi-partisan explosion of protest. The danger is not that the law will be repealed or changed but that it will be whittled away through special concessions and permits. It is necessary to bear in mind Stephen Mather’s wise warnings when an advocate of whittling insists that he intends to create no precedents. With the best intentions in the world, he could not help creating a precedent. His successors in office might not agree with him about precedents, and they would have to use his own precedent against him.

“The people, to whom the Parks belong, should be given the full facts on which to base a judgment, whenever the question of intrusion on Park lands arises. The people, as taxpayers who foot the bill, should also know, with fair exactness, and from a responsible reviewing body, how much a reclamation project is going to cost them, whether in a Park or not. [....]

“The attitude of Americans toward nature has been changing—slowly, perhaps, but inexorably. Fifty thousand persons camped out in one Park, the Great Smokies, in a single summer month of 1954. That same summer I spent a night at Manitou Experimental Forest, in which a near-by campground, run by the Forest Service and at that moment without a water supply, was expected to be used by fifty thousand people before winter. In 1951 Glacier National Park had a half-million visitors; in 1953 it had more than 630,000. In that same year, the last for which total figures are available, Grand Canyon had 830,000 odd, Yellowstone 1,300,000, and Yosemite just short of a million. Those figures are impressive no matter how you take them. They mean that what the Parks and Monuments provide and preserve without impairment is increasingly appreciated and increasingly needed by more and more millions of American families.”

Alfred A. Knopf, “The National Park Idea,” in This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, Wallace Stegner, ed. 91-91. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955) (Emphasis in boldface mine)