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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

National Parks

(A) (1) The 1916 National Park Service Organic Act states that the fundamental purpose of the national parks is "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." That purpose matters now more than ever. But the environmental challenges of the 21st century require the Park Service to take on a far broader mission.

(A) (2) All ecosystems face inevitable, and in some cases drastic, disruptions resulting from the effects of human-caused climate change. In response, the Park Service must shift from its historic focus on protecting specific places to a broader, long-term mission that includes protecting biodiversity imperiled by climate change. This shift will demand flexibility, scientific resources, and a new vision that extends beyond park boundaries. Parks should be carefully monitored to detect environmental changes that threaten wildlife, plants and other natural resources, and parks must be managed to enable natural systems to maximize their adaptation.

(A) (3) Management should include long-term planning based on the best available science. As habitats and ecosystems undergo alteration as a result of climate change, many plants and animals will need connected natural landscapes and innovative conservation strategies if they are to adapt and survive. The Park Service must manage park use, plan for future land acquisition and coordinate with other landowners and agencies in response to this need.

(A) (4) National parks should also fill an appropriate and essential role as climate change refugia, as research and monitoring sites, and as places to educate the public about the effects of climate change.

(B) The national park system should be expanded in order to include all ecological regions. Within park boundaries, the Park Service should acquire all private in-holdings, including easements, rights-of-way and subsurface ownership rights.

(C) The national park system must be funded in a way that provides sufficient resources for ongoing operations and maintenance needs and also allows for long-term planning and stability. Funding sources should include congressional appropriations, affordable user fees, and private funding, but the parks should not be dependent on private sources or user fees for basic operations. Commercial interests should never be permitted to change the essential public character of the parks.

(D) (1) In planning to accommodate visitors, low or zero-emissions public transportation into and within national parks should be a high priority, and automobile traffic should be minimized or eliminated. In order to protect wildlife and preserve a natural environment, use of snowmobiles, jet skis, motorboats or other mechanical devices that could disturb plants or wildlife or interfere with visitors' enjoyment should be prohibited, as should use of vehicles off established roads. [Exceptions would be made for safety personnel in emergencies.] Bicycles, including mountain bicycles, and other wheeled equipment should be prohibited in wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and other natural areas that have been proposed for or are being managed to wilderness standards.
* Existing Sierra Club policy regarding "Air Tours" ( adopted February 17th, 2001) addresses helicopter and airplane overflights.

(D) (2) National park management should strive to preserve the natural quiet in park settings, as well as the natural darkness and views of the nighttime sky. Artificial lighting should be as minimal and unobtrusive as safety concerns allow, human-caused noise should be minimized, and light pollution from outside of parks should be reduced to the lowest feasible levels.

(D) (3) Development within national parks should generally be limited to only those facilities necessary to accommodate visitors and protect people and park resources, and these facilities should be as unobtrusive as possible. Overnight facilities should not be expanded. Insofar as possible, facilities for public use and administration should be located outside of park boundaries. All park facilities should be models for low energy use, with the goal of carbon neutrality, low resource consumption, zero pollution, zero waste, and compatibility with the natural world.

(D) (4) Necessary action should be taken to ensure that development outside of national park boundaries does not adversely affect park resources or the experience of park visitors. Considering the future need for species to move beyond their present range in response to climate change, land use and development adjacent to parks should not block essential connectivity that would allow species to move.

(D) (5) Visitation is important, and park planning and management should facilitate visitation by all, including people with disabilities and those at all income levels and ages. Young people in particular need more exposure to nature. Management should seek to attract visitors who reflect the rich diversity of the U.S. and of the world: our parks should welcome visitors from other nations. However, protection of natural resources and wildlife must remain the Park Service's primary goal.

(E) (1) The Park Service should fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

(E) (2) All lands managed by the Park Service that may be suitable for wilderness designation should be added to the wilderness preservation system and managed according to the Wilderness Act of 1964. All waterways suitable for designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers should be so designated.

(F) Interpretive, scientific and educational programs for national parks should be expanded through the use of means most likely to reach the largest possible audience. The Park Service should have the lead role in providing these programs.

(G) The Park Service should be free of political pressure that undermines science-based management decisions or interferes with its independent professional judgment regarding books, interpretative presentations, public education or other park programs.

Board of Directors, August 20, 2009


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