An environmental group is concerned that pending federal legislation will - if approved - devastate 54 national parks, supposedly in the name of national security.
Among the legislatively at-risk national parks is the only one in Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees says that HR 1505 and titled the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act,” would "gut a century’s worth of proven federal lands protection, potentially opening up millions of pristine acres of national parks to off-road vehicle use, road construction, air strips and helipads, fencing, base installations, and other disruptions."
Under the bill's intentions the federal government could - and would - "suspend the enforcement of almost all the nation’s environmental laws" on all lands under the jurisdiction of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture within 100 miles of the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico," says Maureen Finnerty, the chairman of the parks retiree group.
"Why would families seeking the natural and cultural wonders and outdoor experiences of our national parks choose to visit such Border Patrol-controlled areas criss-crossed by new roads, penetrated by noisy all-terrain vehicles, and dominated by tactical infrastructure?" Finnerty said.
Besides Cuyahoga Valley some of the other likely impacted national parks include Acadia, Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, Cuyahoga Valley, Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Guadalupe Mountains, Isle Royale, Joshua Tree, North Cascades, Olympic, Saguaro, Theodore Roosevelt, Voyageurs, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
The combined total acreage of these 15 parks is 21,657,399, nearly 25 percent of the overall footprint U.S. National Park System.
In all, 36 laws that would be expressly suspended within 100 miles of the borders with Canada and Mexico include the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916; the Wilderness Act of 1964; the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969; the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966; the Endangered Species Act of 1973; the Clean Water and Clean Air acts; and the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.
H.R. 1505’s remaining provisions also would independently provide “immediate access” to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for road, equipment, and infrastructure construction and motorized vehicle use on national parks.
The outrage, Finnerty says also, is that the nation's "Crown Jewels" could end up being "trashed in the name of achieving national security gains that are fictitious.”
“This legislative proposal is perhaps the most direct assault on national parks ever to be advanced at any level in any Congress in U.S. history," Finnerty goes on to say. "It threatens to literally stop all enforcement of several landmark environmental and conservation laws that the National Park Service uses to manage and protect the National Park System and to serve millions of park visitors."
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn