Over 60 years ago, firebrand historian Bernard DeVoto published a modest proposal in Harper’s. He could’ve written it yesterday as a response to proposals for hefty fee increases levied on visitors to our more popular national parks. After itemizing innumerable problems — hordes of tourists overwhelming meager facilities, campground squalor, crumbling infrastructure, wholly inadequate staffing — he concluded:
“Only one course seems possible. The national park system must be temporarily reduced to a size for which Congress is willing to pay.
“Let us, as a beginning, close Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Grand Canyon national parks; close and seal them, assign the Army to patrol them, and hold them secure until they can be reopened.
“They have the largest staffs in the system but neither those staffs nor the budgets allotted them are large enough to maintain the areas at a proper level of safety, attractiveness, comfort, or efficiency. They are unable to do the job in full and so it had better not be attempted at all.
“If these staffs, and their respective budgets, were distributed among other areas, perhaps the service could meet the demands now put on it. If not, additional areas could be temporarily closed and sealed, held in trust for a more enlightened future; say Zion, Big Bend, Great Smoky, Shenandoah, Everglades and Gettysburg.
“Meanwhile, letters from constituents unable to visit Old Faithful, Half Dome, the Great White Throne and Bright Angel Trail would bring a nationally disgraceful situation to the really serious attention of the Congress which is responsible for it.”
Bill Keshlear, Salt Lake City