Public Lands Current Events Update June 2017

In the past month our Public Lands have once again been in the news frequently, so I am going to take today to touch on some of the more recent and relevant headlines.

Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm

In the past two weeks, Yellowstone National Park has seen an earthquake swarm of 878 earthquakes. However, these earthquakes have been very small with none even reaching a magnitude of one on the Richter scale. The USGS and Yellowstone geologists insist that we have nothing to worry about in terms of the supervolcano erupting, and still place the odds of it erupting this year as 1 in 730,000 despite the recent swarm. For those that are in constant fear of a Yellowstone eruption like me, take comfort in the fact that they say even if there were an eruption it would most likely just be a small lava eruption and not the huge supervolcano, humanity-ending, volcanic-winter-inducing eruption that is much hyped.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke mentions goal to privatize campgrounds on public lands

Now I will admit that this subject is a little personal to me due to the fact that my main job here in Zion is running campgrounds and if this goes according to Zinke’s plan, I very well could be out of job. But I will do my best to remain objective. I have worked in parks where the campgrounds are run by a private company, and I have also worked in parks in which the campgrounds are run by the government and volunteers. Personally, (as I mentioned I am perhaps a bit bias) I believe this plan would be a great disservice to the American people in that rates for campgrounds would likely skyrocket. I have watched happen over the years in Grand Teton National, a park in which the campgrounds are privately run by concessionaires. On the other hand though, I also need to mention that with budget cuts likely happening in the near future, this may be a good way to cut maintenance and staffing costs so that the limited funds may be appropriated elsewhere where they may be more needed such as law enforcement and search and rescues.

National Monument Review

There are several headlines that fall under this category. As Secretary Zinke has recommended that Bears Ears National Monument be reduced in size, petitions and efforts to cut the size of other national monuments have begun. One such instance of this is the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Tulare, California where locals are requesting that the monument be reduced in size by over 70 percent. Public Lands supporters feared that if Bears Ears was indeed reduced as Zinke suggests it would set a bad example and be a threat to public lands everywhere. This most recent move gives credit to their fears. At the same time however, Secretary Zinke has responded to campaigns for Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument in Montana to lose its National Monument status by saying that he would like to leave that monument as it is.


Great Smoky Mountains Arson Charges Dropped

The teens that allegedly started the major fire in Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Gatlinburg, Tennesee that burned more than 2,400 buildings and killed 14 people this past winter have had all charges dropped against them.  This story is breaking as I publish this blog so keep your eyes out for more news on this developing story.