As 2017 comes to an end, I thought now would be as good a time as any to wrap up the top headlines effecting forestry and our public lands this year. It was a big year with many changes- making it hard to narrow it down to a few but these are the ones that seem to have made the most impact this year.
Federal Government Hiring Freeze
It seems like old news now, but the year started off with a panic due to the federal government hiring freeze. Many parks were not able to bring on necessary staff until later in the season or not at all. While this hiring freeze didn’t have as much of an impact as originally expected, it did affect many parks for months.
As covered in the previous blog, the OPM audit changed a lot of hiring practices for our public lands, and more specifically those managed by the National Park Service. While the impact is just barely starting to be felt across the parks, its effects are already devastating to NPS employees. 2018 will give us a better idea of the the long term effects of this.
It seems like every summer big fires in the West dominate the headlines, but this year was particularly bad-specifically, the fires in Glacier National Park and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic got a lot of attention this year. The Sprague Fire in Glacier burned a total 16982 acres including the beloved backcountry Sperry Chalet. It is said that they will try to rebuild the Chalet next year. The Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon burned 48861 acres and narrowly missed the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge much to the relief of many Oregonians.
Proposed Fees Increase
While the next subject was definitely the most controversial of the year in the world of public lands, this was a close second. With fee increases proposed for the top 17 most visited national parks from $30 a week to $70 a week during the peak season. This issue has divided public lands lovers. Many people thinking it’s a good move and provides needed funds for our parks and many more believe that it could exclude many of the nations low income families. With the public comment period ending just a few weeks ago, it will be interesting to see how the National Park Service decides to handle this come 2018.
The Scaling Back of two Utah National Monuments
The fight for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments has consumed much of 2017. Since the National Monument Review was announced at the beginning of the year, many were afraid that this would be outcome and that this could set a dangerous precedent for other public lands. Their fears were recently confirmed when President Trump announced that he would be slashing the two monuments by 85 percent. In response there have been multiple lawsuits including those by the five Native American tribes that had ties to the land and the clothing giant Patagonia. One thing is for sure, this proposed land cut will be in litigation for a long time.