We have discussed this topic on the blog before. Thanks to Char for putting the questions out there in a well-written and researched piece here called “The San Gabriels: A National Forest? A National Park? Does it Matter?”. Thanks for setting our sights on the big strategic question.
There was so much good stuff that it was hard to pick an excerpt, so I just pulled the last few paragraphs.
It remains an open question, then, whether an NPS-managed recreation area would be an improvement over the current national forest. Neither agency currently has the requisite funds to sustain the forests, meadows, rivers, and beaches, trails, cabins, and lodges it stewards across the country. Like the heavily used Angeles National Forest, the Park Service’s major urban recreation areas, including the Santa Monica Mountains, Golden Gate, Delaware Water Gap, Lake Mead, and Gateway, are showing a lot of wear and tear, direct consequences of years of declining budgets, staff reductions, and deferred maintenance; the same situation is bedeviling the management of our wildlife refuges, conservation preserves, and iconic parks. We may proclaim that the public lands are national treasures, but we treat them like dirt.
Nothing will alter this situation unless we mount a serious national discussion about these lands’ real value, human and environmental. Our debate over the future of the San Gabriels and the Angeles National Forest could stimulate this much-needed larger conversation. But only if we ditch the hyperbolic rhetoric, confront the harsh budgetary climate, and admit that political tradeoffs will compromise whatever choice we make.
If we stay the ax and start telling the truth, we’ll be in a better position to make decent public policy.