Whole Life Magazine

June/July 2014

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W hen President eodore Roosevelt spent four days hiking and camping among the grand vistas of Yo- semite with John Muir back in 1903, it sparked a passion that eventually led to his support of our national parks system, a victory for all Americans. ree years later Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, enabling the federal govern- ment to set boundaries to preserve national lands. Prescient for his time, he understood that, "We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the elds and obstructing navigation." Today there are 59 parks (plus another 342 monuments and otherwise designated "units") under the aegis of the National Parks Service (NPS), each more stunning than the next. is year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the famed conservationist and Sierra Club founder, so what better way to celebrate John Muir than with a visit to one of our national treasures? IN SEARCH OF SILENCE When I woke on a recent morning to the usual cacophony of car horns and lawn mowers outside my L.A. home, I knew I needed to get away fast. Fortunately I live in a state that boasts nine national parks, so I headed to one of my favorites—Yosemite. Relief was almost instantaneous. Yosemite Falls was as mag- ni cent as ever, thundering a er recent rain, and I lingered in the cool spray. Later I rode a bike through Muir's beloved valley, de- lighting in warm breezes that whispered through the tall grasses, with Half Dome towering above. is is where I feel closest to my soul on earth, with merely a thin veil separating me from such eternal nature lovers as Muir. To escape the crowds, I drove the Tioga Road to one of the Si- erra's largest high-altitude sub-alpine meadows. e air felt lighter at 8,600 feet in Tuolumne Meadows, and so did my spirits as I hiked emerald elds strewn with delicate purple lupine, sweetly scented pink snow and bright orange poppies. Except for breezes and birdsongs, the only sounds in this serene, Eden-like terrain were the steady thumping of my heart and feet. It was a much happier experience than my drive last fall to Oregon, through the verdant Redwood Highway and back into California toward Redwood National Park. Sunlight peeked through the canopy of the world's tallest trees, but dark clouds of disappointment loomed—the federal government shutdown had closed all our national parks. e shutdown lasted only two weeks, but in that time the parks lost $414 million in visitor revenue. Other political issues also plague our park system. In 2011 and 2012, the NPS had to juggle 6 percent budget cuts in two successive years. In 2013, some law- makers in Congress voted to slash the NPS budget by $380 million. In March of this year the House of Representatives passed a bill to amend the Antiquities Act of 1906, hoping to restrict presidential power to declare national parks and monuments. It is in committee in the Senate, but with the legislative branch of our government so sharply divided along party lines, an elec- tion year change in balance of power might mean unwelcome news for nature lovers. DAUNTING CHALLENGES In addition to political and nancial setbacks, the diverse land- scapes of our parks all face environmental challenges. Climate change speeds glacial melting in Glacier National Park and also allows destructive insects, such as the mountain pine beetle and hemlock woolly adelgid, to ourish. Longer re seasons plague forests everywhere, especially in the west, and wildlife continues to perish from pollution. And the human toll on the environment is signi cant. Years of uranium prospecting have adversely a ected the Grand Can- yon's ecosystems, and air pollution from nearby power plants makes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park appear smokier than ever. Disrespectful ranchers in Nevada and elsewhere graze their herds on parklands. "Midnight poachers" who saw and sell OUR NATIONAL PARKS ARE A TREASURE WORTH CELEBRATING JOHN MUIR'S FOOTSTEPS IN By Lori Berezin photo: Lori Berezin 24 wholelifetimesmagazine.com WLT-JUN-JULY-26.indd 24 5/26/14 2:10 PM

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