The report earlier this year by the National Parks Conservation Association which clearly evidences the demise of the ecosystems of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is appalling. It cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.
I am always passionate, often opinionated, usually stubborn, sometimes wrong…but I’m not wrong about this.
The report states, in part, that the ground level ozone and acid rain threaten the health of park visitors, staff, vegetation, soils and streams; that air pollution has diminished visibility from an average of 113 miles to an average of 25 miles; that the park is grossly understaffed and underfunded; and, that nonnative pests and diseases are killing off Fraser firs, hemlocks, dogwoods, butternuts and beech trees.
If man pollutes the air of his own habitats, then so be it. People have the ability to make conscious choices regarding the air they breathe, the food they eat, and the places they go, but the indigenous life in the park does not.
In February, 2001, experimental release of elk was begun in an attempt to repopulate animals which haven’t been seen in North Carolina since the late eighteenth century. They were eliminated by over-hunting (STOP IT!) and loss of their usual habitats. Stunning and rare red-wolves are among the treasured species of wildlife in the National Park, along with more than 200 species of birds. In the fall, Golden eagles come through the park and wonderful black bears and their families reside there all year around.
As is my usual primary consideration, to allow the environmental murder of a place which is the home of these animals is a travesty. However, aside from my animal concerns, there is a human consideration as well. We have a responsibility to nurture these places and their furry, feathery and fluffy inhabitants for future generations. Our children and their children are entitled to know them, enjoy them, learn from them, and be inspired by them. There are no more beautiful wild-flowers on the planet (outside of Texas bluebonnets) than those in places like Cades Cove in the spring and summer.
I am not a tree hugger, and recognize that certain degradation of our natural resources is an inevitable product of civilization. I am, however, an animal lover, and this directly steps on my Texas toes. While we are spending billions of dollars to find extra-terrestrial life, and billions of dollars to make weapons to kill and/or defend our fellow men (all worthy endeavors which I support), we can be creative enough to spend what we need to spend to protect something equally as important.
Future generations of writers and poets will be diminished if a course correction isn’t made (clever how I got that writing ‘thang’ in there, wasn’t it?)