Category Archives: National Parks

Letter to my Congressperson

NPS flat hats

Representative Patrick McHenry, my Congressman, was scheduled to hold an public listening session today in Western North Carolina.

He got sick and had to cancel his appearance. I am putting this letter in the mail. Here’s what I was going to tell him.

Rep. Patrick McHenry
North Carolina 10th District
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. McHenry:
Thank you for coming out to speak to your constituents today. My parents didn’t take me to national parks when I was young. But I made up for it as an adult, going to parks on vacation, taking our son and now our grandchildren to parks.

At Alum Cave

I am very concerned about funding for the National Park Service. In North Carolina, we have nine national park units. Three of them are in your district or very close: Blue Ridge Parkway, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Last year, Americans and visitors all over the world flocked to our national parks because of the National Park Service centennial. This year promises to be another record year.

Yet, the proposed budget for FY18 is only 2.55 billion dollars.

a. This is a 13 percent cut to the Park Service, the largest cut to the agency since World War II, if enacted. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s budget would decrease funding for deferred maintenance, which the Smokies needs desperately.

b. The NPS would have to cut 1,242 in staff, or 6 percent, compared to last year. I am particularly concerned about cutting the number of national park rangers. Volunteers make an important contribution to parks. However, visitors want to see green and gray uniformed rangers who understand the park – its history, legacy and hiking trails.

Isa at Carl Sandburg Home

c. Look at these numbers which I plucked from the NPS budget document.

In 2016, the actual allocation was 2,852,413. The NPS FY 2018 discretionary budget request of $2.55 billion is $296.6 million below the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution. Isn’t it sad that even the requests get lower and lower?

Speaking of Continuing Resolution, our government is only funded until the end of September 30. And you know that when the government shuts down, national parks are the first thing that gets closed.

So, please, Rep. McHenry, fund our national parks properly and work on a real budget. Thank you

PS Thank you to Nick Lund of the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA) for some good discussion and information.

Hiking in Saguaro National Park

Danny, Priscilla and Hannah

Can Tucson be the Asheville of the Southwest?

Although Tucson is so much bigger than Asheville with over 500,000 people, it’s cool and artistic like Asheville. And it had a national park, Saguaro National Park which borders the city on both sides.

I’m on a short vacation with my granddaughter Hannah.

Today,  our first full day in Tucson, we climbed up Wasson Peak, elevation 4,687 feet, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains. The  variety of cacti is the big attraction.

Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro cactus is the one with all the arms.  It’s supposed to be the symbol of the Southwest Just like couples with varying number of children, some have no arms and others can have four or five.

They’re everywhere, which was the big surprise. I thought I would have to hunt them up.

Saguaro NP was created in the 1930s to protect the saguaro cactus.  The park has a modest number of trail miles.

The trail to Wasson Peak was well maintained and signed. But I find the openess of a western trail disconcerting. I want the security of walking between two  rows of trees.

But Hannah and I weren’t on our own. Priscilla from Carolina Mountain Club who lives in Black Mountain is spending some time in Tucson at the Desert House of Prayer, a contemplative Christian retreat. She joined us on the hike.

It may be just the beginning of March but this is the desert – hot and dry. So we started early and loaded up with two quarts of water each. And we drank most of it. Just like in the Smokies, we met people who started to go up just as we were coming down.

But unlike the Smokies, Saguaro NP had put up a trail register at the beginning of the hike and at the top of Wasson Peak. I guess they want to see how many actually make it to the summit, as well as use the information for possible searches and rescues.

It took us five hours to walk about eight miles, with lots of stops for photos and talking to fellow hikers. When we signed out, we saw several groups who had started after us and signed out way before us. Some could have been runners but others might have just turned around.

Ryan Zinke confirmed as Secretary of the Interior

While all the divisive political news was swallowing the airwaves and headlines, Ryan Zinke was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior on March 1. The next day, he rode a horse to his first day at work. He will be in charge of the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management.

The former Montana Congressman calls himself a Teddy  Roosevelt Republican. It turns out that Pres Roosevelt was also a horse rider.  But Roosevelt didn’t have to deal with climate change – which Zinke says is real. [I don’t want to say “believe in climate change”. It’s not a religion.]

Will he protect our public lands? Well, he did say clearly that our public lands are not for sale. So what do I hope he does?

Like the drawing on the right says:

  • Invest in our National Parks
  • Fund the maintenance backlog
  • Hire more permanent rangers
  • Protect our future generation (of trees and mountains)
  • and get out to our parks

I designed the card and my talented friend, Mica, drew the card. I then created postcards which I’m giving away to anyone who is willing to send them to their representatives. You can download your card here.