Friday, October 18, 2013

Farewell, Prejudiced NPCA

by Drew Hanson

Areas of the National Park System are outstanding places to enjoy on foot. One organization gets a lot of attention for its efforts on behalf of the National Park Service but this writer’s 17-year experience exposes a prejudice. Following up on Mountain Majesty Bias, below is most of my October 11, 2006 letter to National Parks Conservation Association.

Dear National Parks Conservation Association,

Since 1990 I have been a devoted member of National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). I have read, usually cover to cover, every edition of National Parks magazine and saved every one of them. Since 1990 my life list of visited units of the National Park System has grown from three to 71.

But your article “The Fourth Coast” is trying my patience and testing my allegiance. Although the article represents a long-overdue treatment by NPCA of Great Lakes and more broadly freshwater issues, NPCA’s bias against the Heartland portion of the United States still shows.

The map that appeared on page 25 was by far most upsetting. It shows Mississippi River and Recreation Area and St. Croix National Scenic River even though both are entirely outside the Great Lakes watershed, places the label for the North Country National Scenic Trail a hundred miles out of place and omits the Ice Age National Scenic Trail entirely. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is partly within the Great Lakes watershed, the St. Croix and Mississippi parks are not.

A dozen times over these 16+ years I have written letters or emails to NPCA describing one facet or another of the national park in my backyard, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, but not once has NPCA mentioned the Ice Age Trail (IAT) in National Parks. Here was your chance to provide some glimmer of hope for the thousands of IAT volunteers (whose VIP hours total rank in the top ten of the entire National Park System each of the past several years) that NPCA is on our side. Here was your chance to show that you pay attention to your members. But you blew this chance to provide even token recognition.

The sting inflicted by your latest anti-Heartland bias might have been less severe had you not labeled the North Country Trail (NCT) at all because the IAT and NCT are both “non-units” of the National Park System. I am perplexed as to why instead of labeling both or neither you would choose to label only one. Both the IAT and NCT are great trails and could be great units of the National Park System if treated reasonably.

Why has NPCA been so insulting to those of us who labor on this non-traditional park, who pour our hearts into the Ice Age National Scenic Trail?

Given NPCA’s record of taking my money but ignoring my pleas, I cannot help but note that my NPCA membership is set to expire 6/30/07. That gives NPCA eight more months to say something constructive about the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in National Parks magazine. Anything short of that will lead to a very disappointed member redirecting his annual donation to some other deserving cause.

Best regards…

I never received a response from NPCA. So as promised, my membership with them ended on June 30, 2007. The 17-year stack of National Parks magazines went into the recycling bin. No sweat. My life list of National Park Service areas continues to grow without NPCA—the most recent addition being Keweenaw National Historical Park.

You don’t need to support NPCA to learn about and support the conservation of national park areas. If you want to support an organization that does fantastic conservation work in the Heartland region of the country, give to the Ice Age Trail Alliance. If you want to support an effective national or international conservation organization, I recommend The Nature Conservancy or The Conservation Fund. If you enjoy reading news about the National Park Service, a great website and list serve is National Parks Traveler, which runs balanced and informed stories about places in the Heartland and beyond.

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