When I made a guest appearance last month on the award-winning NPR podcast, “Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer,” the show’s host and my travel writing colleague, Tom Wilmer, and I discussed visiting U.S. National Parks during this year’s centennial celebration of the establishment of the National Park Service.
Both the general news media and travel publications and blogs have been making much-ado about the 100th year of service by the NPS, and in honor of that agency, PBS stations have been re-running Ken Burns’ 2009 documentary series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.
But what may have been overlooked in the hoopla over the park service anniversary, is what made creation of that government entity necessary: The establishment of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, decades earlier in the post-Civil War era.
However, the importance of Yellowstone’s selection as that primal park did not escape the attention of National Geographic magazine, whose May, 2016 edition is devoted entirely to Yellowstone.
In an episode of the NPR radio show “Fresh Air” entitled “Is Yellowstone National Park In Danger Of Being ‘Loved To Death’?,” which by coincidence aired on the same day as my conversation with Tom Wilmer about the national parks on his NPR podcast, journalist David Quammen, author of those National Geographic Yellowstone stories, talked to the show’s host, Terry Gross, about the impact that visitors to and development of nearby private lands are having on the park and surrounding ecosystem.
In his National Geographic story, “Yellowstone: Wild Heart of a Continent,” Quammen raises this question:
“Can we hope to preserve, in the midst of modern America, any such remnant of our continent’s primordial landscape, any such sample of true wildness—a gloriously inhospitable place, full of predators and prey, in which nature is still allowed to be red in tooth and claw? Can that sort of place be reconciled with human demands and human convenience? Time alone, and our choices, will tell. But if the answer is yes, the answer is Yellowstone.”
My short film, Yellowstone: Saving The World, Park By Park, illustrates why the future not only of that park, but of national parks in nations around the world, depends on the people of the planet collectively answering Quammen’s question in the affirmative.