"Politics" is the study of conflicts between competing interests for limited resources. Given the contradistinction between environmental protection and recreational tourism, both of which fall under the purview of the National Park Service (NPS), politics inevitably influences the policies which govern the national parks. The NPS oversees 413 parks on 84 million acres of land, including 59 major national parks, 128 national historical sites, 84 national monuments, 25 national military parks, and dozens of other preserves, seashores, lakeshores, parkways, and recreation areas. Thus, politics has a major influence on national parks all across the county.
Students in this class will examine how politics affect both the parks and NPS policy by examining a variety of environmental, economic, historical, and cultural issues. For example, we will examine how climate change is changing the scenery at Glacier National Park and how changes in wildlife policies at Yellowstone have literally resulted in a changed landscape. We will also examine the conflicts between the land-buying government and citizens who oppose its appropriation of private land. We will study the motives and actions of many diverse people who helped create and build the parks into what they are today. Additionally, we will conduct a comprehensive case study of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and discuss the wide range of political issues it has evoked since its inception, including how politics influenced its route, the government's use of eminent domain to displace private citizens, and the conflict that arose between the government and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians over a right-of-way for the Parkway's final fifteen miles. Finally, we will review meaningful ways that we can get involved in our communities and participate in civic activities to benefit our school, community, state, and nation.