Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, National Park Service

Driving home today from our working vacation in Wyoming, we passed through Zion National Park, where we discovered today is the 93rd anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (August 25, 1916). In addition, Zion Canyon was proclaimed Mukuntuweap National Monument on July 31, 1909, making this their centennial year. [right, NPS emblem used until the present arrowhead design was adopted in 1952. Credit, NPS.]

To celebrate these dual events Zion NP is closing the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway for 3 hours tomorrow evening, so that celebrants to walk through the 1-mile long tunnel as early visitors used to do. This is a one-time event that was 'sold out' by June.

Anniversaries are a good time to take stock of the past and consider future directions. With that in mind, I want to repeat a long-standing wish of mine, to see the NPS recognize the importance of geology in some many of their parks, especially those in the West. A decade ago, a few visionaries formed the Geologic Resources Division in the NPS. At the time, there were about 35-45 NPS employees with geology degrees (many were working in non-geology roles, such as collecting entrance fees) while there were roughly 800 biologists.

That ratio of 20 to 1 has not changed much, and even more importantly, biologists hold virtually all leadership positions in the NPS. That by itself is not a problem, but historically there has been a preoccupation with flora and fauna to the near complete dismissal of the geology. So, you can visit some of the premier geologic parks in the world here and have to look hard to find interpretive materials or ranger programs on their geology.

In the past few years, champions in NPS of the GRD have retired and it's not clear whether the new managers will continue even the minimal level of geology support in their system.

So, happy birthday NPS. And in anticipation of your 100th anniversary perhaps you can start now towards becoming more effective champions of all the treasures under your care.

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