There are many issues, or challenges, facing the National Park System. It is important to be aware of the existing challenges when working as a Park Ranger. As a park ranger, you can make a profound impact on these issues.
Challenges in The National Park System
- Water Issues: What happens when natural water flows are replumbed by humans. The example is the struggling “river of grass” in Everglades National Park.
- Air pollution: The National Geographic article mentions Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but you could easily add Acadia, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde to the list of parks impacted by air pollution, whether it arrives in the form of high ground-level ozone levels, particulates, or acid rain.
- Climate change: Impacts of an altering climate already are being noticed in the parks, from the melting glaciers in Glacier National Park to bug infestations in Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and other western parks made possible by warmer weather.
- Transportation Troubles: Challenges with quality of the roads in the parks but much progress has been made, and is continuing, in parks such as Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Great Smoky.
- Visitor Experience: How people enjoy the parks. How can improvements be made?
- Overall funding: This perhaps should be at the top of the list, for as long as Congress fails to adequately provide for the parks the maintenance backlog will continue to grow, stories will go untold, species will suffer, natural, cultural and historic resources will be impacted, and visitor services will decline.
- Political interference: Under this you could list politicians who try to legislate management of the parks and require the Park Service to spend incredible amounts of time and dollars studying prospective park units that on first blush probably don’t deserve to be added to the system.
- Illegal immigrants: Whether the source is drug runners or illegal aliens traveling through Southwestern parks such as Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, or Saguaro National Park, or Mexican drug cartels setting up marijuana groves in Sequoia, Yosemite and even North Cascades National Park, these are serious problems that pose a threat to park visitors and staff; this impacts park resources.
- Crumbling infrastructure: Regarding the Park Service’s estimated $9.5 billion backlog of maintenance. The infusion of more than $750 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has made some progress possible.
- Wildlife Management: With regards to fragmenting habitats and human pressures through development that are impacting wildlife from Everglades to Denali.
- Foreign invaders: Exotic species, plants, animals, insects, fish, create problems.
- Under-staffing: In terms of there not being adequate numbers of full-time, professionally trained staff in the parks, (interpreters, law enforcement rangers, or curatorial staff).