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'Crown jewels' of U.S. parks endangered

Yellowstone, Glacier Bay, Mojave on the list

This Joshua tree stands in the Mojave National Preserve, parkland that the new report from the National Parks Conservation Association says is endangered by development and funding problems.
This Joshua tree stands in the Mojave National Preserve, parkland that the new report from the National Parks Conservation Association says is endangered by development and funding problems.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- United States national parks are under assault from air pollution, development, poor funding and other woes, according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

The advocacy organization includes several of the "crown jewels" of the U.S. park system, including Yellowstone, Glacier Bay and Mojave, on its annual list of "America's 10 Most Endangered Parks."

This year's list, released Monday, includes Big Bend National Park in Texas, which is threatened by water diversion from the Rio Grande and trans-border air pollution from Mexico, NPCA says.

The NPCA report says domestic power plants have lowered air quality in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.

And Everglades National Park -- hemmed in by growth on Florida's coastlines -- faces an oil-drilling proposal at its northern border in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Different sites, different needs

Here's an interactive gallery of scenes from some of the parks   on the National Parks Conservation Association endangered list.
And here's an interactive map of the National Parks Conservation Association's Top 10 most endangered national parks of 2002.  Included are the specific problems threatening each site.
Virtual visits of parks at the National Parks Conservation Association  online site.
ParkNet, the Internet service of the U.S. National Park Service. 

"These lists are useful because they highlight problems within the park system for the public," says David Barna, chief of public information for the National Park Service. But, Barna says, they can also be misleading.

'We have 385 parks and preserves and monuments, and we treat them all the same. They are all our children. But we cannot manage them all the same," Barna says, because their designations permit different activities within their boundaries.

"In a park, you can come in, take pictures and leave. But a preserve has a multiplicity of purposes," Barna says.

He also says people can sometimes be mistaken in thinking illegal or damaging things are happening on park lands: "People will say, 'They are drilling in a national park,'" he says, "and that's not true."

Of the 385 National Park Service properties, 56 are parks, 19 are preserves,118 are historic sites and 10 are shorelines. Others are monuments, memorials and recreation areas -- sites where boating and snowmobiling are allowed.

History on the line

The NPCA's information indicates that Federal Hall -- the historic site of the first Continental Congress, a few blocks from the World Trade Center site in Manhattan -- is underfunded.

But President Bush has requested $16.5 million for restoration and repairs after the trade center collapse jolted and cracked the edifice, Barna said.

Another Revolutionary War site, Pennsylvania's Valley Forge National Historical Park, is surrounded by suburban growth and also faces funding problems, the group's data shows.

Encroaching development and poor funding also threaten Montana's Glacier National Park and the Mojave National Preserve in the southern California desert, according to the group.

The NPCA cites three different types of vehicle traffic which pose risks to federal parks:

  • Proposed highway construction in Georgia's Ocmulgee National Monument, which endangers wildlife.
  • Increased cruise ship traffic in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Monument.
  • And winter snowmobile traffic in Yellowstone National Park, the first and oldest national park in the world.


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