After a year of pandemic restrictions, record numbers of people are flocking to America’s national parks. Iconic parks such as Acadia, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Yellowstone are dealing with traffic jams, packed parking lots, and congested trails. Park advocates are raising concerns that our parks are being "loved to death" and calling for measures such as reservations or increased fees to reduce visitor pressures.
Yet, as Terry Tempest Williams has observed, “Our national parks are breathing spaces in a society increasingly holding its breath.” People are attracted to our parks because they are among the best-protected natural landscapes in America. Surely there must be a way to both welcome the millions of people seeking these breathing spaces and continue to preserve their extraordinary natural and cultural values—to ensure the parks are accessible while also protecting their ecological integrity.
Actually, there is a way, and it is pretty straightforward: Lawmakers in Washington need to create more national parks.
An expansion of our national park system would relieve pressure on existing parks by offering alternative national park experiences in other outstanding places. In addition, more protected forests, grasslands, and waters would fight climate change by sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide. They would also safeguard the full range of native plant and wildlife diversity.