National Parks Policy: Obama Vs. Bush

Arches national park photo

Image: james.gordon6108 via flickr

There are a lot of things about environmental policy from the Bush era that we'd like to see reversed, but one thing he may have done better than Obama is preserve, or at least not destroy, national parks, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. We already know these treasured public places, America's best idea, are in trouble, but PEER has put together an interesting analysis: the National Park Service under Obama has taken a series of actions that are either worse than Bush-era policy or that actively undo protections implemented during those eight years. For example, from PEER:

  • 40,000 acres of wilderness eligible lands in Big Cypress Preserve, the heart of dwindling Florida panther habitat, are being thrown open to off-road vehicle trails and hunting from swamp buggies;

  • National parks want to carve motor-cross-style high speed, single-track mountain bike trails out of the backcountry in parks such as Big Bend; and

  • Millions of acres of potential wilderness lands are threatened by loosening policies and a complete indifference to the system's huge unrealized wilderness legacy.

President Obama signed a law allowing firearms in parks, but in fairness, that was a last-minute Bush decision—Obama just defended and signed it (as part of legislation increasing restrictions on credit card companies).

The Obama administration abandoned a proposed ban on lead ammunition and tackle in national parks. Hunting restrictions that protected wildlife in places like Mojave have been reversed to now allow hunting with no safeguards from the Parks Service, and the agency is now pushing to allow wholesale removal of plants and approved corporate bio-prospecting (the collection of biodiversity samples for corporate use of the genetic material they contain—in pharmaceuticals, for example) of park flora.

More on National Parks:
State Parks on the Chopping Block Across the Nation
Is America's 'Best Idea' at Risk?
An Opportunity to Protect Our National Forests
Public Lands Are Key To Survival of North American Bird Species

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