For those living in the U.S., this has been the summer of closed borders. In light of international coronavirus travel restrictions, Americans in record numbers are finding balm in road trips and the open-air splendor of their own national parks. Yet aside from welcome social distancing modifications that regulate crowding on trails and overlooks, what are they finding when they get there? The precious public resources upon which these fragile ecosystems depend—implemented by wise federal legislators—have eroded over the last four years. Once upon a time our leaders recognized the protection of the parks as a sacred duty. But these lands have found no like-minded steward in Donald J. Trump.
Can you kill a national park? No, but you can hobble its majesty. You can pollute its waters, diminish its borders, choke its passageways, and let the haze settle over it so that the trees and animals and people can’t breathe. You can allow hunters to eradicate its endangered species, oil companies to drill in its sands, coal companies to release factory-induced methane into its air, and a border fence to destroy sacred Native American sites. You can cut new roads through virgin forest.