State parks have huge economic value but the states are closing them, cutting them, raising fees-

Republican legislators and governors in the interior Western United States are saying we will manage the public lands, the national forest and parks, much better than far off Washington D. C.. Indeed  the Framers of the Constitution argued the states can serve as laboratories for new policies, or policies different than national policy (not James Madison’s exact wording, of course).

Critics of this view argue that the condition of the state parks today in almost every state shows how the states would manage Yellowstone, Zion National Park, Mt. Rainer, Acadia, etc. or the national forests such as the Bitterroot National Forest, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the Angeles National Forest, the Boise National Forest, the Wasatch National Forest,  (about 150 more).

The pretiguous, moderate think tank, Resources for the Future just released a report on the benefits of the state parks.  Among other things, they conclude “the estimated total net present amount of nature recreation associated with the entire U.S. state park system equals about 22 billion hours and has an estimated total time value of about $140 billion.”

Of course, this does not count with wildlife habitat and certainly not the personal enjoyment to Americans the state parks bring.

Here is RFF’s news release about their study. State Parks: Assessing Their Benefits. Juha Siikamäki. RFF

 

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

8 Responses to The state of state parks, a measure of how well states would manage our national public lands

  1. avatar Salle says:

    From the same web site as the article:

    Measuring Conservation’s Return on Investment

    http://www.rff.org/Publications/Resources/Pages/179-ROI.aspx

  2. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    The manner in which Wyoming manages all of its State Lands, not just Parks, gives great pause to turning anything federal over the the states…

  3. CodyCoyote,

    Yes. You can’t camp on Wyoming state lands, though I have. Except for the extraction of minerals, the state lands are controlled by the grazing permittee, who probably holds it through a good-old-boy relationship with state officials (more Western feudal politics).

  4. avatar Mike says:

    State and local lands are usually nothing more than resource extraction punching bags. There are a few exceptions, however, such as the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan, which is actually the largest mainland wilderness in the state.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Mike,

      I don’t think that is at all necessarily true of state parks, especially in the past. Oil seems to be the hardest to keep out.

      • avatar Mike says:

        Come to the state parks in the midwest and see for yourself. Most of them are logged.

        • avatar JB says:

          What do you mean by “logged”? In my experience, the vast majority of lands in Midwest state parks have very little commercial tree harvest–usually the trees that do get cut are for management (e.g., removal of dead and diseased trees).

          I found the following article from Minnesota, which describes a legislative action to allow commercial harvest in two state parks as “unprecedented”.

          http://mntrails.com/content/legislators-want-harvest-state-park-trees

          I would also point out that without some harvest or an occasional burn, we lose early successional habitat, which negatively impacts species that depend upon that type of habitat. Here in Ohio, parks are zoned such that recreational areas and visually sensitive areas (along roads) are generally off limits to harvest. Areas that can be harvested are often managed for uneven age stands, which can promote greater biodiversity.

          ____________

          Description of Zones for Ohio State Parks
          Zone A – Natural and Cultural Protection Focus Zone – Areas will not be considered for
          commercial timber harvest due to the sensitivity of the environmental resource. Examples are
          buffers around large lakes, wetlands, or areas with large numbers of listed species. Individual
          trees may need to be removed due for safety concerns or infrastructure improvements. Logs
          produced from these operations could be sold at the discretion of the park manager in cases of
          high value, but in most situations will decompose near where they originate or be utilized for
          firewood.
          Zone B – Visual Focus Zone – These areas are adjacent to high use recreation areas, park buildings
          and infrastructure, public roads, and camping facilities. Timber management will not be
          considered a goal here except where access may be needed or where a timber harvest may improve
          public safety, enhance viewing opportunities, allow for infrastructure improvements, or to salvage
          timber damaged through insects, disease, or weather events. Any harvests in these areas will be
          primarily for state park user safety.
          Zone C – Late Successional Forest Habitat Focus Zone – These areas will be considered for timber
          production with the goal of creating and maintaining an uneven-aged stand. Single-tree selection
          will be the dominant silvicultural method to obtain this condition, but small group selections may
          also be used. Exceptions will be allowed in cases of enhancing habitat for rare and threatened
          species, vista openings, and stands of planted conifers. The overarching goal for this zone shall be
          to maintain a well-stocked stand of healthy trees and prevent the loss of a valuable timber
          resource. There may be trails within these areas; operations around them will be managed on a
          case-by-case basis.
          Zone D – Early Successional Forest Habitat Focus Zone – These areas contain no trails or public
          roads. If increasing biodiversity within a state park is a goal, then harvests may be done to create
          early successional habitat, regenerate shade intolerant tree species, and create improved viewing
          opportunities. Appropriate silvicultural systems may be single-tree selection, group
          selection/openings (up to 2.5 acres), deferment harvests, and shelterwoods.

          • avatar Mike says:

            ++What do you mean by “logged”? In my experience, the vast majority of lands in Midwest state parks have very little commercial tree harvest–usually the trees that do get cut are for management (e.g., removal of dead and diseased trees). ++

            You must not have travelled too far:

            http://www.paddling.net/places/showReport.html?2

            One of the wilder state parks in Michigan (the U.P.) is actively logged. Also, in my experience county lands generally ignore state land boundaries and take timber at the periphery.

            ++I found the following article from Minnesota, which describes a legislative action to allow commercial harvest in two state parks as “unprecedented”.

            http://mntrails.com/content/legislators-want-harvest-state-park-trees++

            Only California has a law against commercial resource extraction in state parks:

            http://www.serconline.org/forestryStateParks.html

            Logging does occur on many, many state parks and other lands.

            ++
            I would also point out that without some harvest or an occasional burn, we lose early successional habitat, which negatively impacts species that depend upon that type of habitat.++

            99% of the old growth in the Northwoods is gone. It needs more logging like Rush Limbaugh needs a bag of Little Debbie Snack cakes.

            ++Here in Ohio, parks are zoned such that recreational areas and visually sensitive areas (along roads) are generally off limits to harvest. ++

            Right. That’s know as a “political” cut (thank you very much, I’ll be here throughout the week).

            ++Areas that can be harvested are often managed for uneven age stands, which can promote greater biodiversity.
            ++

            You can’t promote biodiversity by cutting trees when you’ve already cut all the old growth, and Ohio has. So has the Northwoods. Cutting more trees simply creates less biodiversity in an exceedingly damaged environment.
            What the Northwoods needs is a reduction in road density, and an aggressive reduction of logging combined with a robust white pine, hemlock, and red pine seeding program. Right now, the forest is managed as a tree farm.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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