A recent report released by the National Parks Conservation Association has found that 96 percent of the national parks in the United States are congested with high levels of air pollution. Precious parks included are Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and the Shenandoah National Park as well as countless others, if not all other parks. 85 percent of national parks have air that is unhealthy to breathe at times.
The air quality in our national parks is incredibly disturbing. Air pollution in parks results in hazy skies, in which 88 percent of parks are affected by, unhealthy air quality, and harms the natural environments of the parks. Climate change is a contributing factor to air pollution, as the parks experience extreme temperatures, thus shortening precipitation patterns and lengethening the dry seasons.
Sadly, air pollution in these sacred areas are directly impacting species of habitat. According to an article by Environment 360, air pollution is, "stifling tree growth, damaging leaves, and changing soil and water chemistry." Air pollution is also causing haze that is so bad, that park visitors cannot see 50 miles of scenery. Not to mention the health affects it has on humans, and ozone levels being a moderate to significant concern. In sacred places such as these parks, that should never be the case.
Most air pollution does not generate from national parks. In fact, it travels from other places that can be hundreds of miles away, and affects all parks no matter how remote or distant. Much of the air pollution comes from oil and gas drilling sites, coal mines, power plants, vehicles, and agricultural activities. Air pollution in parks can also result from natural disasters like fires. When I had the chance to visit Yosemite National Park in November of 2018, the smoke from the Paradise Fire hundreds of miles up north, had been swept down by winds, creating hazy atmospheric conditions. I remember how smoky the air smelled, and how difficult it was to see into the distance wherever I was.
America's national parks are some of the most beloved treasures of our world, and if measures are not taken to protect them, our actions will result in irreversible damage, that will eradicate the iconic wildlife and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources of these beautiful places. It saddens me to hear news such as this on the radio, and reading about it in other articles. These parks are once in a lifetime experiences, and if we do not act now on mitigating climate change and our actions that contribute to poor air quality, these experiences will cease to exist. Respect open spaces no matter how far or wide. Protect our lands.