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The Early Master Plans for United States National Parks (atlasobscura.com)
67 points by Thevet 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

If you're an outdoor junkie: Ken Burns has an excellent multipart documentary on the formation of the National Park System, including some of the personalities and gory politics. (The political landscape doesn't sound like it's changed much in 100 years: People trying to preserve beautiful open spaces, and other people trying to exploit them for financial gain.)


My faith in the National Forest Service has been severely damaged after they burned my parents' home down this summer. They set a back burn near a residential area to combat the Lolo Peak fire that started in the Bitteroot National Forest only to sit there and watch my parents' house burn. They set the fire and did nothing to protect the house (or the neighbors) once it crossed their fire line.

This is going to sound terrible, but it sounds like that may have been a needed sacrifice to prevent damage to others homes. Your parents house would have just been destroyed by the forest fire instead if they hadn't done anything. Did they let the back burner get out of control or something?

Did your parents' home follow all the rules of defensible space? http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/

Ignoring it is an easy way to get wildland firefighters around here to abandon your home in an instant. They refuse to waste their time fighting a totally lost cause.

> The political landscape doesn't sound like it's changed much in 100 years: People trying to preserve beautiful open spaces, and other people trying to exploit them for financial gain.

I am quite fond of national parks, but note that the conflict isn't quite as morally black-and-white as your phrasing implies: when I lobby to preserve beautiful open space, what I'm trying to do is use public resources to secure a private good (my viewing pleasure) and prevent others to enjoy the use of that land; likewise, when someone else tries to exploit a resource for financial gain, he's meeting the needs of others on the market. I'm not a selfless hero, nor is he a heartless villain. The reality is that we're both acting in what we believe our self interest is, and we're both acting in order to serve others.

There's a pretty big difference between wanting to preserve nature because you enjoy it and want others to enjoy it, and extracting resources from land to sell to others.

If the resource extractors were just doing it for their own personal use, and encouraging others to do the same, that might be comparable. Or if the nature enthusiasts were selling access to others.

The access to nature is sold, including at national parks [1], just as access to the resources is sold.

In both cases, there's a market need being fulfilled; that's even more defendable for the resource extraction, as they're a business which must make an economic profit, or otherwise die.

I'm not defending resource extraction above preservation, however the above poster did make a solid point on the morality issue.

[1] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/u-s-raises-entrance-fees...

The access to nature is sold, but not by the people advocating for it.

Imagine if people who advocate for cutting timber on public land proposed that the government should cut down the trees and sell the results, because they just love lumber and want everyone to have access to high-quality lumber.

National park infrastructure to access the nature requires funding, and thus the selling of access is inherent, so indirectly, yes.

I see your perspective that it's different as the lumber companies are telling the government "Hey, we should cut down all these trees, and I should sell them for profit!". The OP's point, though, is that the only reason the lumber company would make a profit is because there is a need for the lumber, and people will pay for it.

It's still morally identical in terms of people having a desired use for the land, just with the corporation as a middleman.

I see a huge moral difference between advocating for destructive resource extraction on public land where you'll be profiting from selling those resources to others, and advocating for non-destructive access to public land where you make no monetary gain, and your only benefit is the personal benefit all visitors experience.

Everyone, this is HN. Please comment rather than downvote.

I don't believe that OP is advocating for resource extraction over preservation. Regardless, however, the goal should be to upvote any polite and well-explained opinion, while only downvoting comments that lack meaningful content.

"Silencing ideas or basking in intellectual orthodoxy independent of facts and evidence impedes our access to new and better ideas, and inhibits a full and considered rejection of bad ones." - Drew Faust

Put another way (and speaking as someone who mostly supports national parks/monuments/etc.) a lot of this can come across as well-off coastal urbanites regulating how land can be used in rural Maine or Idaho.

Doesn't the government own this land? "Regulating" doesn't seem like the right word.

Well the people of the US own the land and presumably can influence what's considered appropriate use.

So how does that coincide or conflict with your original comment? Just because I'm a "well-off coastal urbanite", that doesn't mean I can't join everyone else (i. e., "we the people") to influence how land is used in states I don't live in.

Of course you can/should join everyone else in trying to influence. But there's a widespread and not entirely unwarranted belief that the agenda around federal land protection and use is driven by populous urban centers.

Look. I favor protection of federal lands for the most part. But there is a reflexive belief in some circles that land use should be restricted as much as possible and uses like hunting should be generally banned.

Okay, gotcha, and thanks for clarifying. And that "widespread and not entirely unwarranted belief" is likely at least partially true, if for no other reason than there being more people in urban areas to vote (or influence, or whatever).

I collected lots of National Park leaflets as issued in visitor centers during the early nineties. These were masterpieces of design and consistency in that design. I wonder if the visitor guides issued back then followed the same ethos as the park plans.

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