January 31st, around 4 in the morning, I was lying face-up, looking at the ceiling of my tent. If it weren’t for the rain-fly covering the small, mesh, skylight I would have been staring into the vastness of the night sky above Joshua Tree National Park. The sky, like a redhead with a lack of sunscreen, was freckled beyond belief. Ages away stars were twinkling, forming constellations (one of which was very apparent early on,causing me to say “oh shit, Orion,” or something to that effect) and nebulas making me wish I had a stronger camera or even a telescope.
A thought popped in my head as a pack of coyotes started to howl no more than ten feet away from our tents, probably rummaging through the smoldering fire pit after smelling a whole onion that we decided to roast a few hours prior, just because it seemed like a cool idea. It was.
So, here’s the thought, and I don’t know if any of the site’s writers have explicitly started with this yet, but: do you know what’s a hell of a thing? The National Parks.
All of them. They offer hunters, fisherman, backpackers, campers, and people like you and me, thousands of acres of land to explore and appreciate as much as your tiny little heart desires. They bring in domestic and international visitors alike year-round and open their gates for a small fee, creating thousands of jobs and generating upwards of $20 billion annually nationwide. Hell, you can get a National Parks pass for $80 dollars that grants visitors access to over 2,000 federal areas. A small price to pay to visit millions of acres of pristine, nearly untouched land.
Lately, however, a push in several levels of government has been made to sell off this land. This opens the vast acreage up to the possibility of unnecessary property development, and the expansion of outdated and environmentally detrimental energy initiatives.
This is the sale of land that has been passed down for over a hundred years, and was created with the intention that the American people will enjoy the park’s grandeur for generations.
There are many scholarly articles available to read about this hugely greedy money and land grab, so I’ll leave it at that.
Progress is clearly evading us. Get some pens to paper, call whoever you can, and go stand where bodies are needed. Shutting down house bill H.R. 621, regardless of party affiliation, is something we’ll be thankful for in the years to come.
Keep things like the Parks System a hell of a thing.
Ian Cosgrove is currently on a month-long, cross-country road trip. Check back for more short reports along his travels.