Here, There and Everywhere

U.S. Parks Take Deep Breath

The Clean Air Act is now over 40 years old!
From National Parks Conservation Association

Clean Air

Air pollution is among the most serious threats to national parks. Dirty air can darken the horizon and ruin scenic views. It also damages plants, harms fish and other wildlife, and even affects the health of visitors and park staff. Most of the air pollution affecting national parks results from the burning of fossil fuels, especially by coal-fired power plants.

NPCA advocates for new regulations to clean up hundreds of outdated power plants spewing pollution that harms our lungs and parks. We’re also taking steps to protect America’s national parks from ill-conceived proposals to build new coal-fired power plants near the parks. November 2011 marked a major victory in the fight to reduce haze throughout the country—read about the consent decree that is set to reduce pollution in 43 states this year.

NPCA at work

For decades NPCA has advocated for park air quality protections and currently leads a national coalition whose efforts have resulted in an agreement mandating enforceable air plans for 47 states.

NPCA successfully fought an unnecessary power plant near Hampton Roads, Virginia. Thanks to more than 9,000 supporters who spoke out against it, Old Dominion Electric Company suspended its plans to build the plant. As a result, the air around several national parks will be subjected to less haze from airborne emissions, and people in nearby communities will be able to breathe easier, too.

NPCA recently reached a historic agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to retire some of its coal-fired power plants and reduce pollutants in the region.

NPCA’s California Clean Air and Climate program focuses on outreach, education, legislation and advocacy to promote cleaner air in the Pacific region. Field offices in Fresno, Joshua Tree, and San Francisco work with the parks, public, decisionmakers, and schools to fight for cleaner air.

NPCA helps coordinate a network of businesses in Virginia who voluntarily pledge to promote cleaner air. Learn more about the Virginians for Healthy Air Network.

National parks harmed by air pollution

Joshua Tree National Park has some of the worst air quality of any park, with record high ozone levels. On clear days, visibility is 100 miles, but haze pollution can cut views to 17 miles.

From 1999-2003, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks recorded 370 days with unhealthy air from ozone pollution. Over half of the Jeffrey and ponderosa pine trees are showing some level of ozone damage.

Ozone pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park has been higher than in urban Denver. On the haziest days, visibility at Rocky Mountain is approximately 57 miles- half the distance it should be.

The State of Florida has issued fish-consumption advisories in Everglades National Park due to high mercury levels in largemouth bass and other fish species.

Scientists at Mammoth Cave National Park have documented elevated levels of mercury in bats, including one species at risk of extinction—the endangered Indiana bat.

Estimated annual average natural visibility at Acadia National Park is 110 miles. However, air pollution reduces visibility to approximately 33 miles. Scientists measured some of the highest mercury concentrations in this park’s warm-water fish species, such as bass, perch, and pickerel.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park- our nation’s most visited national park, has spectacular overlooks that are severely impaired by haze. Scenic views in the park should extend for more than 100 miles, but air pollution cuts those views to around 25 miles.

Big Bend National Park has some of the worst visibility of any national park in the West. Scientists believe that mercury and other toxic compounds may be contributing to reproductive failure among peregrine falcons in the park.

Read more about clean air at National Parks Conservation Association, as well as information about all our countries beautiful national parks.

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