A commission examining our national parks will commence a three-day meeting today at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. The meeting is being conducted by the National Parks Second Century Commission, a group which has been formed to examine the role of national parks and will help to develop a vision for their future.
The Yellowstone meeting is the third of five meetings the Commission is conducting over the course of a year-long process.
The Second Century Commission consists of nearly 30 national leaders and experts, including scientists, historians, conservationists, academics, business leaders, policy experts and retired National Park Service executives, and is being led by former Sens. J. Bennett Johnston Jr. of Louisiana and Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee.
The group will also hear from a range of experts, park managers, and the general public.
The goal of the commission is to create a report that outlines how park services can be expanded to reflect cultural changes and to establish a 10-year program to repair and enhance the parks through a mix of public and private funding.
As an example of some of the issues being discussed, Sally Jewell, one of the commissioners and a member of the National Parks Conservation Association board of directors, warned of a "growing disconnect between children and nature."
Connecting children to the parks is the first step in creating the environmental stewards of the future, said Woody Smeck, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.
There are local issues that the national parks will need to consider as well. Gretchen Long, trustee and current board member of the National Parks Conservation Association, challenged the commission to consider how the use of parks is influenced by urban sprawl, legislative mandates and other forces.
One Simi Valley resident attended the first meeting in California because he's worried about the government seizing his private property for parkland. He believes officials will "use all kinds of measures to prevent people in using their land in any way, shape or form."
The last meeting will take place in Great Smoky Mountains National Park from June 2 through June 4. Commissioners will then put together a report, with recommendations, that will be delivered to the Department of the Interior by late 2009.
Citizens have an opportunity to make their voices heard during this process. You can offer input through the Commission's website, or, you can speak to specific issues through one of the seven working committees. Please visit the Second Century website for more information.
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