This Land is Your Land Rotting cabins, closed trails: why we’re shining a light on US national parks – by Alastair Gee – Mon 29 Jan 2018 06.00 EST


At Zion national park, a popular trail has been closed since 2010. At the Grand Canyon, a rusting pipeline that supplies drinking water to the busiest part of the park breaks at least a half-dozen times a year. At Voyageurs, a historic cabin collapsed.

The National Park Service is the protector of some of America’s greatest environmental and cultural treasures. Yet a huge funding shortfall means that the strain of America’s passion for its parks is showing. Trails are crumbling and buildings are rotting. In all there is an $11bn backlog of maintenance work that repair crews have been unable to perform, a number that has mostly increased every year in the past decade.

“Americans should be deeply concerned,” said John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The National Park Service, he argued, is hamstrung by a lack of resources and is in “triage mode”.

Today the Guardian is announcing a major expansion of This Land is Your Land, our series investigating the threats facing America’s public lands.

The Ingersoll Lodge after its collapse, at Voyageurs national park.
The Ingersoll Lodge after its collapse, at Voyageurs national park. Photograph: National Park Service

National parks are just one part of an unparalleled system, managed by the government and held in trust for the public, and spanning over 600m acres of forests, deserts, tundra and glacier-covered peaks, as well as historical sites such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. They are integral to American life: an ancestral home for Native Americans; a retreat for vacationers, sportspeople and hunters; a source of grazing; and an economic engine. Yet their future is uncertain.

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