Jason Mark

Jason Mark

Jason Mark's writings on the environment have appeared in The New York Times, TheAtlantic.comThe Nation, and Salon.com, among many other publications. He is the editor in chief of SIERRA magazine, was the longtime editor of Earth Island Journal, a quarterly magazine, and is a co-founder of San Francisco's largest urban farm. Time has called him "a rebel with a cause." For more, visit jasondovemark.com.

Our National Parks Might Become a Gated Community

PHOTO BY KELLYVANDELLEN/ISTOCKSecretary Zinke’s proposal to increase entry fees could make parks an exclusive playground
PHOTO BY KELLYVANDELLEN/ISTOCK
PHOTO BY KELLYVANDELLEN/ISTOCK

Secretary Zinke’s proposal to increase entry fees could make parks an exclusive playground

The mission of America’s national parks seems pretty clear. Legislation establishing the National Park Service, passed just over a century ago, said the parks and monuments should “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life” of parks and monuments “by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Such places should be widely open to visitors. The Park Service is supposed to ensure that nothing “interfere[s] with free access . . . by the public.”

But somehow the people who now oversee the national parks didn’t get the memo. They’re hoping to jack up entry fees at some of the most iconic parks by such enormous percentages that those places will no doubt become less accessible to many.  

Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a proposal to more than double entry fees at 17 of the most popular parks during the summer months. Vehicle fees will go from $30 to $70. Motorcycle visitors will see their entry fees spike from $25 (and as low as $12 in some parks) to $50. Per-person rates—for those who arrive on bicycle, foot, or horse—will go from $15 a head to $30. 

America’s public lands, rightly celebrated as an inspiring example of the country’s democratic aspirations, are at risk of becoming a gated community. 

Here are the names of the parks facing skyrocketing fee increases (on the chance that one of the places is beloved by you): Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks. 

You might be asking, What’s this all about? 

Zinke claims the fee increases are needed to address the Park Service’s reported $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects. “The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” Zinke said in a statement calling for “targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks.”

I have a hard time believing Zinke’s concern about the infrastructure backlog when, at the same time, he and President Trump are proposing a budget that would cut spending on the Park Service by 13 percent and reduce staff by up to 1,200 employees. Zinke’s deferred maintenance anxiety feels a bit disingenuous—enough crocodile tears to match Yosemite Falls. 

And while it’s true that some park facilities are badly in need of repair, the whole maintenance issue is a bit of a red herring. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, about $400 million of the backlog should actually be paid for by the concessionaires like Aramark and Xanterra that are making a killing on selling hot dogs at the visitor centers. Nearly half of the Park Service’s list of needs, close to $6 billion, is just for four roads in a handful of parks. 

Read the rest at Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club.

Let the National Monuments Hear How Much You Love Them

About half of all the all of the Sequoiadendron giganteum that exist on Earth reside in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument. At Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah, pre-Columbian petroglyphs and potsherds can be found tucked...

About half of all the all of the Sequoiadendron giganteum that exist on Earth reside in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument. At Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah, pre-Columbian petroglyphs and potsherds can be found tucked amid the high desert buttes. Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is a testament to how a forest battered by logging can regrow into a wet and wild home for moose, bear, and lynx.

Wonderful places, all—and each of them under threat.   

Sequoia trees.JPG
Public Domain, Link

As you might have heard, these national monuments and nearly two dozen others are the target of downsizing or elimination as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke conducts an unprecedented review of the national monuments created under the Antiquities Act. 

The whole thing has been something of a sham from the start. It seems little more than a way for President Trump to throw a bone to the Bundy clan (or is it, ahem, klan?) segment of his base, the anti-government zealots in the West who hate the very idea of public lands. The scope of Zinke’s review has been arbitrary from the start: monuments created since 1996 and over 100,000 acres in size. Those lines were quite transparently drawn to draw in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which has been a bête noir of Utah’s congressional delegation since it was established by President Clinton. Katahdin Woods didn’t qualify—at 87,00 acres, it’s relatively small—but Zinke included it anyway. This is apparently because the monument—a donation to the American people from the family behind Burt’s Bees—annoys (even-crazier than Trump) Governor Paul LePage. 

Katahdin, photographed from the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.png
By MajorRogers - Photographed on an October trip to the Monument. Previously published: Cover photo on my Katahdin Woods and Waters Facebook page, Link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/183741732065812/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

 

Even as Zinke moves to reduce Bear’s Ears by as much as half, he’s already announced that five monuments are going to be spared: Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Hanford Reach in Washington, Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, and Upper Missouri River Breaks in Zinke’s home state of Montana. Why these ones? The public doesn’t know, as the Interior Department has dodged questions about why these five deserve protection. 

Zinke’s one nod to transparency and public input backfired on the Trump administration. Of the 2.7 million comments submitted during all-too-brief public comment period, 98 percent of them expressed support for maintaining the current national monuments, according to the Center for Western Priorities. 

The public comment period is now closed. Trump’s executive order directs Zinke to issue his preliminary recommendations by August 24. But there’s still one last chance to make your voice heard. 

Starting this Saturday, August 19 and stretching through August 22, there will be rallies nationwide to demonstrate support for public lands. You can find a list of events here

Hopefully you can make one of them, and let the national monuments and Trump-Zinke know how much you love our public lands. 

Photo Credit: Pexels

Island Press Holiday Gift Guide 2016

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the...

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the comments below. 

For the OUTDOORSPERSON in your life:

Water is for Fighting Over by John Fleck | An Island Press book

Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West by John Fleck
Anyone who has ever rafted down the Colorado, spent a starlit night on its banks, or even drank from a faucet in the western US needs Water is for Fighting Over. Longtime journalist John Fleck will give the outdoors lover in your life a new appreciation for this amazing river and the people who work to conserve it. This book is a gift of hope for the New Year.

Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man by Jason Mark
Do you constantly find your friend waxing poetic about their camping tales and their intimate connection to the peaceful, yet mysterious powers of nature? Sounds like they will relate to Jason Mark’s tales of his expeditions across a multitude of American landscapes, as told in Satellites in the High Country. More than a collection of stories, this narrative demonstrates the power of nature’s wildness and explores what the concept of wild has come to mean in this Human Age.


What Should a Clever Moose Eat?: Natural History, Ecology, and the North Woods by John Pastor
Is the outdoorsperson in your life all dressed up in boots, parka, and backpack with nowhere to go? Looking for meaning in another titanium French press coffeemaker for the camp stove? What Should a Clever Moose Eat leaves the technogadgets behind and reminds us that all we really need to bring to the woods when we venture out is a curious mind and the ability to ask a good question about the natural world around us. Such as, why do leaves die? What do pine cones have to do with the shape of a bird’s beak? And, how are blowflies important to skunk cabbage? A few quality hours among its pages will equip your outdoor enthusiast to venture forth and view nature with new appreciation, whether in the North Woods with ecologist John Pastor or a natural ecosystem closer to home.

Also consider: River Notes by Wade Davis, Naturalist by E.O. Wilson

For the CLIMATE DENIER in your life:

Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman
This holiday season, give your favorite climate-denier a passive aggressive “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” with The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change featuring self –described Stand-up Economist Yoram Bauman and award-winning illustrator Grady Klein. Give the gift of fun, entertaining basic understanding of what is, undeniably and not up for subjective debate, scientific fact!

Also consider: Heatstroke by Anthony Barnosky, Straight Up by Joseph Romm


For the HEALTH NUT in your life:

Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson
Give the health nut in your life the gift of understanding with Unnatural Selection. Your friends and family will discover how chemicals are changing life on earth and how we can protect it. Plus, they’ll read fascinating stories about the search for a universal vaccine, the attack of relentless bedbugs, and a miracle cancer drug that saved a young father’s life.

Also consider: Toms River by Dan Fagin, Roads Were Not Built for Cars by Carlton Reid, 



For the ADVOCATE in your life:

Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay by Sanderson, et. al
Need an antidote to the doom and gloom? Stressed-out environmental advocates will appreciate Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay. It’s a deep dive into one of the most important questions of our time: how can we create cities where people and nature  thrive together? Prospects for Resilience showcases successful efforts to restore New York’s much abused Jamaica Bay, but its lessons apply to any communities seeking to become more resilient in a turbulent world.


Ecological Economics by Josh Farley and Herman Daly
Blow the mind of the advocate in your life with a copy of Ecological Economics by the godfather of ecological economics, Herman Daly, and Josh Farley. In plain, and sometimes humorous English, they’ll come to understand how our current economic system does not play by the same laws that govern nearly every other system known to humankind—that is, the laws of thermodynamics. Given recent financial and political events, there’s a message of hope within the book as it lays out specific policy and social change frameworks.

Also consider: Tactical Urbanism by Mike Lydon, Cooler Smarter by The Union of Concerned Scientists



For the CRAZY CAT PERSON in your life:

An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
The cat lovers in your life will lose themselves in An Indomitable Beast, an illuminating story about the journey of the jaguar. This is the perfect book for any of your feline loving friends, whether they want to pursue adventure with the big cats of the wild, or stay home with a book and cup of tea.

Also consider: The Carnivore Way by Cristina Eisenberg, Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz 


For the GARDENER in your life:

Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes by Margie Ruddick
Give your favorite gardener an antidote to the winter blues. The lush photographs of Wild by Design, and inspirational advice on cultivating landscapes in tune with nature, transport readers to spectacular parks, gardens, and far-flung forests. This book is guaranteed to be well-thumbed and underlined by the time spring planting season arrives!

Also consider: Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso, Principles of Ecological Landscape Design, Travis Beck



For the STUBBORN RELATIVE in your life:

Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator by Lucy Moore
For the person keeping the peace in your family this holiday season, the perfect gift is Common Ground on Hostile Turf, an inspiring how to guide demonstrating it is possible to bring vastly different views together. This book gives lessons learned on setting down at the table with the most diverse set of players and the journey they take to find common grounds and results. If your holiday dinner needs some mediation, look to the advice of author Lucy Moore.

Also consider: Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals by Susan Jacobson, Communicating Nature by Julia Corbett

For the HISTORY BUFF in your life: 

The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities by Stephanie Meeks with Kevin C. Murphy
When it comes to the the future of our cities, the secret to urban revival lies in our past. Tickle the fancy of your favorite history buff by sharing The Past and Future City, which takes readers on a journey through our country's historic spaces to explain why preservation is important for all communities. With passion and expert insight, this book shows how historic spaces explain our past and serve as the foundation of our future.

Also consider: The Forgotten Founders by Stewart Udall, Aldo Leopold's Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition by Julianne Lutz Warren



For the BUSINESS PERSON in your life:

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature by Mark Tercek
For the aspiring CEO in your life who drools at phrases like "rates of return" and "investment," share the gift of Nature's Fortune, an essential guide to the world's economic (and environmental) well-being.

Also consider: Corporation 2020 by Pavan Sukhdev, Resilient by Design by Joseph Fiksel