Instead

26– Stewarding peace & darkness in our national parks with, Dr. Zach Miller

July 13, 2020 Utah State University Office of Research Episode 26
Instead
26– Stewarding peace & darkness in our national parks with, Dr. Zach Miller
Chapters
1:43
Let there be light!
6:02
GNAR and the night sky
21:09
Managing a changing scene
30:46
The National Park of the future
Instead
26– Stewarding peace & darkness in our national parks with, Dr. Zach Miller
Jul 13, 2020 Episode 26
Utah State University Office of Research

Light pollution hides the Milky Way from 80% of North Americans. In this episode of Instead, Wyatt sits down with USU researcher Dr. Zach Miller. The two discuss the little known implications of light pollution on local ecosystems and the long term effects of new noises invading National Parks.

Dr. Miller discusses his work with tourism and recreation, and what these parks might look like once COVID-19 clears up. 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Light pollution hides the Milky Way from 80% of North Americans. In this episode of Instead, Wyatt sits down with USU researcher Dr. Zach Miller. The two discuss the little known implications of light pollution on local ecosystems and the long term effects of new noises invading National Parks.

Dr. Miller discusses his work with tourism and recreation, and what these parks might look like once COVID-19 clears up. 

Wyatt: [00:00:02] As more and more people are flocking to Utah's top recreation sites, park and community managers have to adapt so that they can continue to keep the trails peaceful, the stars bright and as many people as possible happy. In this episode of Instead, you're going to hear from a USU researcher who studies the actions and perceptions of people recreating in our national parks, wildlife and society. Professor Dr. Zach Miller does research in Utah State University's Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. Dr. Miller also works in the Gateway, a natural amenity region initiative, the GNAR initiative from USU extension. In my conversation with Dr. Zack Miller, we'll talk about what it takes for a place to be called a national park, why people choose to visit them, and what park managers can do to meet those expectations before we get started. Please take a second to show your support for the Instead podcast by subscribing to it in your podcast feed. And if you like this episode, leave us a review. You can also give us feedback on our website and follow us on Instagram at instead podcast. This episode is number 26 and if you're looking for something similar, you should listen to Episode 17 with Dr. Joe Wilson. We talk about honeybees, local bees and murder hornets. My name is Wyatt Traughber and you could be regretting the decision to buy granola bars dipped in chocolate for your July outing, but you are listening to this instead. All right, let's drop into my conversation with Dr. Zach Miller.

 

Wyatt: [00:01:43] Yeah, yeah. So tell me a little bit about your lighting project in Grand Teton National Park.

 

Zach Miller: [00:01:50] Sure. So over the last few years, you know, if we look back into the 1960s, we decided that clean water and clean air were important resources to steward as we move forward. And in the last few decades, we've seen similar stewardship, things related to natural sounds and night skies know night skies, natural darkness. They protect all sorts of different aspects of the ecosystem, including wildlife processes. Know everyone knows that if you turn on the light, insects are drawn to the light. That has all sorts of consequences for the insects as well as the animals who forage on those insects like bats, for instance, lighting can interrupt all sorts of processes for nocturnal animals. And so a lot of areas are starting to want to implement wildlife friendly lighting in Grand Teton National Park in collaboration with colleagues at Penn State University and the National Park Services Division of Natural Sounds and Night Skies. We were looking and colleagues from Boise State University. We were looking at how implementing some of this wildlife friendly lighting affects visitors experiences and perceptions of safety. And so that's one of the main barriers, is that if it makes people feel less safe, then that's something we really want to consider. If we can implement in some of these developed areas. Describe this wildlife friendly lighting. Yeah. So, you know, it's a little nuanced. But one of it one thing has to do with intensity, right? So how bright the lights are. Another aspect of the experiment was the WHU, the lights are, which is really just the color and that's traditional white lighting or a red hue to lighting. And so we looked at how both hue and intensity affected visitors in the area. We found that, you know, visitors didn't feel any less safe. They were better able to experience the night sky, better see the stars. We also have some colleagues from Boise State that are looking at how that lighting affected insect and bat populations in the area as well. Overall, we're trying to see how these how this lighting influences not only visitors experiences, but also some of the ecological components of that system as well.

 

Wyatt: [00:04:02] Yeah, when you talk about the hue of lighting, I think that can be like a weird concept to wrap your head around a lot of the LEDs that are coming out there coming out that already exist and are everywhere. They're definitely more towards the blue end of the spectrum and lighting. And I know that that can be more disruptive, perhaps because it is much closer to the sunlight. The sun is actually more of a blue, a blue hue. So how does having like a warmer or specific color of light benefit or affect wildlife?

 

Zach Miller: [00:04:35] So the actual biophysical responses of wildlife is not what I'm an expert. Yeah, yeah, but I do know that wildlife friendly lighting that has a different hue can change the amount of time species spend in certain areas. They can change the amount of time species rise out from wrests like bats when they're chilling during the day or whatever. I don't know what the right word is there. They can emerge earlier in the day or later in the day, depending on the lighter lighting conditions. Some of the more popular or famous studies done on lighting involves sea turtles. And that that blue light that you're alluding to, that kind of bluish white hue, tends to attract sea turtles and prevents them from nesting in a lot of areas where the red light allows them to come up on the beach and actually proceed with nesting. So there are quite a few impacts to wildlife from lighting.

 

Wyatt: [00:05:28] I just it makes me think of I took a darkroom class and like obviously like it was a very specific hue of light when you're in the darkroom. And it was just like so relaxing to be in there, like once your eyes adjust.

 

Zach Miller: [00:05:41] Well, like, if you think about like a lot of Utahns spend time outdoors and a lot of our headlamps nowadays have a red light on them. And that's to protect your night vision. Yeah. So, you know, we already see we're incorporating some of these things into our own ability as people to adapt outdoors.

 

Wyatt: [00:05:56] Yeah, yeah. So you're working in a park setting. Are you also working ever in an urban setting? Because I know that there has been like movement to switch to specific tones of LED lights and like reduce some of the lighting we have in our urban spaces. Is that something you're interested in there at all?

 

Zach Miller: [00:06:14] Yeah. So most of my work does focus on these kind of protected area ecosystems, but more and more we are thinking about visiter use to these parks as this transboundary issue. You know, when we're in a five million people go to Zion every year, when they leave the park, they don't magically evaporate. You know, they go into these communities or, you know, arches in Moab have this really close connection because they're so close to each other. So I think a lot of these gateway communities are focusing on ways that they can contribute to some of the stewardship of those resources. And light pollution is one of those things that's come up, particularly in Utah, because Utah has such great dark sky resources. These communities want to help Foster and Stuart, Stuart, some of those things.So here at Utah State, we have something called the NAAS initiative. And the NAAS initiative is looking at how some of these Gateway communities can better think about not only the economic benefits, but some of the social benefits from being so park proximate and having so much visitor use in these areas.

 

Zach Miller: [00:07:16] And so, Jake Powell, who I'm sure you're familiar with on campus, he's been very involved with the initiative, as well as Jordan Smith, who's the director of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism and a colleague down at University of Utah called Donya Rushmore, who is also involved with that Naar initiative. And so people are looking at that. Jordan Smith and I just received funding from the National Park Service is natural sounds a nice guys division, as well as the Public Lands Initiative here at Utah State to look at the economic benefits of night sky or dark sky tourism in Utah, as well as some of the visitor experience and social benefits of that same tourism.

 

Wyatt: [00:07:56] Explain night sky tourism. As somebody who's from a place where you could see the stars really well, it seems like a foreign concept to me.

 

Zach Miller: [00:08:04] Yeah, I think like ninety five percent of people live in a place where they cannot see the Milky Way. So these experiences are very novel for a lot of folks. And even someone who spent a lot of time outdoors like myself, I always tell the story that happened recently is I was in a tent in Chocho culture national historic site in northern central New Mexico, which is a certified dark sky area. And I always tuck my fly under my tent at night so that if it rains, I can just quickly go to my tent and throw the fly over, especially when I don't have access to cell service or how likely it is going to rain. And I woke up in the middle of the night and stuck my head out the tent. I rather I looked through the tent and I saw clouds coming over. So I stuck my head out to go put on that rain fly. And I realized when I got out that it wasn't a cloud, it was the stars, and that they were that dense. And I've seen the Milky Way a lot. I've spent a lot. I've been to Alaska. I've been to a lot of these wild places. But the night skies were just something else down there.And those kind of experiences are ones that people will seek out to go to, whether it's night photography, night hiking and other night recreational activities. These dark sky parks are starting to attract attention and people want to come see that. So those are the kind of tourism experiences that we'll be exploring.

 

Wyatt: [00:09:23] So the night sky is probably similar to a lot of resources where we don't realize what a resource they are until they're gone. And another one of those is sound like I'm somebody who very much. Appreciates solitude and quiet. I know that you've worked on a few projects about sound, can you tell me about. You did one in Pennsylvania around like an extraction site or something. Can you tell me that story?

 

Zach Miller: [00:09:47] Yeah. So previous to Utah State, I was working at Penn State and with some colleagues there and the Department of Natural Resources in the state of Pennsylvania is home to some of the richest natural gas deposits in the world. And they're going to continue expanding hydraulic fracturing of rock in order to extract that gas, which is commonly known as fracking. And as a scientist, my job is not to tell them whether fracking is good or bad. It's to help evaluate the impacts of that fracking on whatever whatever they're evaluating. So we looked at how. So when you when you drill for natural gas in your fracking, you have to pump that natural gas up. When you take that natural gas out of the ground, you have to compress it in order to store it. And this compressor sound like an air compressor. They're quite loud devices and they're all these small little pads. And so we were looking at how the compression stations affect visitor experiences in some of these areas that are slated for natural gas extraction. And we found that from motorized users, people riding ATVs and other RVs. Sound doesn't matter at all. That's probably not surprising to anyone. You know, ATVs are already loud, TVs are loud. Some of that loudest might contribute to the experience of those people, whether it's for safety reasons or for excitement or adventure reasons. But non motorized users, people that were kayaking or hiking and stuff like that, that sound had quite a bit of impact on their experience. And so we help managers identify the quantitative points, the like amount of sound that is acceptable to keep a high quality visitor experience from those gas extraction stations.

 

Wyatt: [00:11:28] Mm hmm. And what kind of solutions could they implement to meet those goals?

 

Zach Miller: [00:11:33] Some of it might be as simple as, you know, moving a well pad compression well pad away from to decrease the amount of sound that people are experiencing. It might be avoiding trails with those pads. It might be moving trails of different places are rerouting them. But one of the things that we're trying to do right now at that data is we're working with some people at Penn State who are helping us to map and develop mapping software that will allow us to understand how different environmental structures can influence the propagation or distribution of that sound. So, for instance, we know that things like even like humidity can affect the way that sound travels. And certainly vegetation affects the way that sound travels. So can we find a way to have some kind of barrier? Maybe it's a row of trees or some other vegetation vegetative structure that can provide a naturalistic environment while also reducing the amount of propagation of sound from those areas. We're all familiar with this. When you buy a home by the freeway, there's a big wall that they put up, right. That's sound attenuation. Can we do that in a more naturalistic way in some of these environments? We're trying to figure out ways to map that so we can understand that a little better.

 

Wyatt: [00:12:44] When I think of Pennsylvania, I think of some of their mountains and maybe like not mountains and a lot of places and a lot more trees and then also probably a lot more humidity. So, like, how does how is Utah's landscape different when it comes to sound?

 

Zach Miller: [00:13:00] Sure. So I think that's context specific. I mean, one of the really cool things about Utah is that we have so many different environments here. Pennsylvania's more or less agriculture areas and, you know, northeastern forest types, some mixed deciduous or deciduous forest types. And you're probably getting some nasty emails from ecologists on that comment. But, you know, are forest ecosystems here we have everything from desert to high, alpine to forest to juniper scrub and all that kind of stuff. So it is a little context dependent. But we know that drier landscapes like Utah change down propagation. We know that more open landscapes, a lot of that propagation go further. We know sound travels better over the than over water, which we don't have a lot of in Utah. So all those factors kind of combined together. It is somewhat context specific. But, you know, one of the cool things is we do have a lot of mountains. We do have a lot of ridges. And for instance, if you're hiking in Logan Canyon, you can constantly hear the sound of the traffic until you dip right over a ridge and then it's gone. So it might be present there, but it's also easy to escape because of some of the topography, which, of course, has an effect on the way down the street. Yeah, yeah.

 

Wyatt: [00:14:09] And I guess that the one of the things I'm amazed about and Logan is like going back to the dark skies is like you don't have to drive out of the canyon to see stars pretty decent. And so you do you can experience the contrast quickly. What do you think? What things do you want to see change to so that people will appreciate these resources more?

 

Zach Miller: [00:14:36] If you can answer that question, I think I can answer that question. I want everyone to have the opportunity to be able to go to places to experience areas with pristine soundscapes and pristine night skies. We're starting to see this thing in some of our experience that a couple of colleagues of mine are calling the novel hook, where really pristine night skies with no light pollution actually make people a little uncomfortable. And as you get a little more pollution, they start to feel more comfortable with those settings and that loss of experience, some some people call it the extinction of experience, I think is really important for us to think about, you know, indigenous people in the United States and globally. They're the stories of their cultures. Their stories of their worlds were written in the skies before we had things like YouTube and all that stuff to watch. So they were watching the skies. They learned from the skies for agricultural purposes, but also their own cultural stories. Skies are stars. And Dark Skies isn't one of the ways that we connect to places. And I hope everyone has the ability to experience that. We're starting to look at people's emotional response to night skies, specifically by trying to measure the concept of, all right, so we have this feeling of all, which has all sorts of positive benefits for people. And night skies are one of those things that elicit on people, that vastness of the universe. So I hope everyone gets to experience those feelings of, ah, through things like night skies or at least has the opportunity to experience those things into the future.

 

Wyatt: [00:16:13] Yeah, yeah. How do you measure the human end of things, because I can imagine like you have some fancy microphone and light sensors and whatever when you're out in the field on the landscape end of things. But what is the interactions with people in your research?

 

Zach Miller: [00:16:28] So we mostly focus on people's behavior and behavioral responses, which includes people's measure, like circling numbers on a survey. So right now we're trying to figure out from a scientific measurement perspective how to measure or on surveys. But we've also been starting to look at how people physically respond to things like natural sounds of nice guys. We know that natural sounds reduce stress and people like, you know, I'm sure we've all read studies about hiking's. Good for you nowadays. And certainly we're starting to find that more and more, more and more reasons for that. And so people are starting to measure things like cortisol, which are stress hormones, heart rate variability, kind of the amount of sweat that occurs on your palm in response to different sounds. And all of those things are great. We need to explore those things. But they they are I think that we also need to be measuring these self reported concepts because the response of, ah, for instance, is not always in response to good things like night skies. It can also be in response to, you know, watching a grizzly bear eat a carcass or, you know, driving down the road and seeing a car. And all of those things can elicit a feeling of, ah, so we have to have some kind of context for what some of these biophysical measures mean as well.

 

Zach Miller: [00:17:51] Yeah. So it's just like a state that's kind of induced by realizing how insignificant one is or like how do you define I can get you some of the some of the actual metrics, but we're finding out that it's a multidimensional measure. So, you know, includes a feeling of vastness like that, insignificant you're talking about. It changes concepts of time. It changes your feeling. You're literally feeling like goosebumps. Your eyes wide into your mouth opens. So this is some of the things that we're starting to unpack when it comes to measuring so that maybe that insignificance flip it on its head and call it vastness. And that would be a component of the experience. But there are differences between like experienced and then a dispositional. So there are people who have certain personality characteristics were just inherently inside of them. There are more disposition to feel that's a little different than like the experience of.

 

Wyatt: [00:18:46] Ah, yeah. So a lot of the visitors I think of like I hiked Angel's Landing a couple of years ago and there was all kinds of people on that hike and there were some people who had boomboxes. And then there were people like me who were very much annoyed with those people who had boomboxes.

 

Zach Miller: [00:19:03] How do you measure these things between people from different places or with different priorities? Sure, sometimes we look at people's motivations, right. Motivations is a central concept and we're thinking about managing recreation. You know, we consider people goal oriented. So they're going to recreate for to achieve certain purposes. And if those goals are interfered with, we call that conflict, which is what you're talking about, wanting to experience solitude. They wanted to experience adventure and togetherness with their friends. You guys had differences and motivations and therefore you had conflict. And so just internal like just an internal conflict that's still internal. But externally, anyway, sorry, that is still if your goals are interfered with, that's still considered conflict, even though that you didn't have conflict with that person per say you had a shift in your goal priorities, you had an inability to obtain a goal. And scientifically, we defined that as conflict. And that conflict was also called unidirectional conflict where you were experiencing conflict, but they weren't. Experience, yeah, right. So how do we manage those kind of things? Well, there's a variety of different ways. But one thing I would say when it comes to, you know, the sounds outdoors, we're all familiar with the concept of zoning, whether we know it or not. If you go to a campground, we have certain times of the day where you're allowed to ride around a generator, for instance. That's a form of temporal zoning. Sometimes we have campground or tent only sites, which is another form of zoning that actually reduces noise. But I've done a lot of research with Leave No Trace, the center leaving a Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, which is based out of Boulder, Colorado. And one of their one of their seven principles is to respect other visitors. And I think that, you know, trying to be quiet, reducing the amount of sound that you are making if you would need to listen to music to put in headphones. Mm hmm. Those are kind of things that people can do to reduce their own impact on other visitors, as well as those those resources in parks.

 

Wyatt: [00:21:08] I know that, like Zion has done some things that are that seemed crazy to me when I first heard about them, like a shuttle system, like I'm not from a place with public transport. And so that's that's insane. But now that I've been there, I understand the reasoning and I like it. As much as I hate being on a bus, I also know that parking would be a nightmare if it didn't exist. What kind of other innovations or changes to the way like these national parks are run can help preserve the experiences they get more and more visitation?

 

Zach Miller: [00:21:40] Sure. So I think managers have a whole bunch of different management actions to choose from. And we term these indirect and direct forms of management action and indirect forms of management action include things that are pretty light handed, things like education and persuasion, the communication. Those are indirect management actions where site manipulation and enforcement, those kind of things can be a little more direct as far as a management action goes. And as you might guess, the public is more in favor of indirect management actions than they are of direct management actions for the most part. So communication is really effective when it's done right, or at least it can be. So that's one tool that that park managers can implement. For instance, I've done a lot of work in Yellowstone National Park on wildlife conflict. And so we did some research to help form a strategic communication program about bear spray and bear safety for day hikers. Right now in southern Utah. I'm working with managers at DC in order to implement a strategic communication program focusing on reducing the amount of lead ammunition used in the range of the California condor, which is an endangered species. And so communication can be really effective. And then there's things like putting in a shuttle system or creating use permits and stuff like that. That can also be options as well. But I think the thing to keep in mind is that I think one thing that blows people mind is my favorite fact to share is that the relationship between the number of people in an area and people's perceptions of crowding is very weak.

 

Zach Miller: [00:23:20] And so we often like to focus on outputs instead of inputs. So instead of thinking about what we're going to manage for two million people a year, you should be managing for the output of that. Are you trying to manage your solitude? Because then that's what you want to measure, because that relationship between the number of people and the outcome of solitude is not always as intuitive as we think it is. If it was, that's the only management action we would have. But in Muir Woods National Monument, we put up signs and that's those signs, reduce the amount of noise people were making in the park. That was approximately like 20 percent. That was reflective of like a 20 percent reduction in the number of visitors. Does that make sense? So it's like we put up signs and it was like removing 20 percent of the people, although we didn't actually remove anyone. Yeah, it reduced that noise that much. So there's a lot of other things that managers can do in order to to provide those beneficial experiences while reducing those impacts. Where Ismir Woods, Muir Woods National Monument is located just north of San Francisco on the coast of California.

 

Wyatt: [00:24:21] I'm just I guess I always just come from a scarcity mindset because like I'm like, oh, you can build more shopping malls, movie theaters, and someday we'll be able to use those again. It feels like we only have so many outdoor spaces. How do you feel about that perspective on things?

 

Zach Miller: [00:24:37] So I'm more of the above guy. You know, I think we should have more local parks. We should have more city parks, we should have more state parks. We should have more national parks. Like this is a supply and demand issue. Let's try to find more supply so that we can meet some of that demand. But the scarcity issue isn't really one of just supply and demand. I don't think there is any other place like Arches or Capitol Reef in the world. And so that's why they become national parks. There is no substitute for that experience. I've done some research on fees and national parks and fees are inelastic in economic terms, which means you could basically raise them as much as you want. People are still going to come. You know, there is no substitution for Yellowstone. And if you're going to travel across the country, it doesn't matter if you change that park fee from thirty five dollars to three hundred dollars, it's it's a small portion of your travel expense. Overall, people are going to continue to pay that. And a lot of other countries the price to get in a national park is really high. We have very cheap national parks and those fees are not a good way to manage visitor use because people are still going to keep coming when it comes to all these, you know, supply and demand and scarcity issues provide more of those things might be an option, but I'm not sure that really alleviates it because some of these places are on substitutable.

 

Zach Miller: [00:26:00] There's a lot of people who study things like place attachment and place dependance. And, you know, there's just not a substitute for a place like Grand Teton. There's nowhere else that's going to meet some of those needs. So how do you manage those visitors that are coming? They're one of the interesting things about the current covid-19 pandemic, which we're conducting this interview during, is several parks have implemented reservation system. In order for people to go into the park, so one of the places I can think of is Rocky Mountain National Park and Yosemite National Park have both implemented these reservation systems. We have to go online and get a permit to get into the park. I would be surprised if those actually went away in the future. Now, I mean, it has put this precedent in place where parks are going to have these reservation systems. And I think there are questions about I'm not convinced we know how to do that appropriately right now. You know, any time we implement a reservation system, it benefits certain people and it hinders other people, whether that's a first come, first serve permit or an advance permit or anything like that.

 

Wyatt: [00:27:06] Yeah, yeah, I see the like I have. So I'm bad at planning. So like. Like a lot of my trips are like, oh, next weekend I'm doing this, and if you have to reserve something three months in advance, like that benefits people with stable jobs and planning abilities. And if you raise fees, that benefits people a lot of money, you know, and you're just cutting out the low income local crowd in a way.

 

Zach Miller: [00:27:30] So I guess it all sounds tricky, but that's what keeps me interested in managing parks, because it is tricky. There are a lot of silver bullet solutions here. And what I really think if you were to ask me, what do we need to do a better job of managing our parks, we need science based frameworks for understanding and responding to visitor use. And we need capacity within our parks systems for the employees to be trained in these things so that they know how to manage them. Because oftentimes the people managing visitor use are biologists who've studied wolves their whole life. I mean, those aren't the people you want managing visitor use. No offense to the wolf biologist. You know, you don't want me calling wolves.

 

Zach Miller: [00:28:10] So so we need people that have that professional capacity. And that's one of my favorite things about being a professor, is that I get to do the research and I get to help train the next generation of park stewards and visitors management.

 

Wyatt: [00:28:22] Yeah, yeah. So when you're in these parks like you're going down next week, what things will you be doing for your research while you're down there?

 

Zach Miller: [00:28:30] So I am working with managers at Arches National Park and one of our professors from the US Moheb campus named Wayne Fryman. We're really happy to have Wayne on board. He's a recent hire and he's a leader in the field of visitor management. So if you go to most national parks and you ask him how many people are hiking on this trail, they can't tell you. Yeah, because they don't have the capacity within the parks to monitor visitor use in those areas. So we're helping the park establish real quantitative numbers for how many people are on the trail systems which involve setting up things like infrared counters, which count hikers, as well as going out and calibrating those counters to make sure that they're accurate. So we'll be going down there to help the parks establish some baseline understanding, provide technical capacity for the parks to understand visitor use better at the same time. Wayne did most of his credit, had a great idea that we could also observe visitor behaviors related to physical distancing when they're at parks. I think one of the cool things about this pandemic, as bad as that sounds, yeah, we found out that outdoor recreation is an essential and essential service for people. Yeah.

 

Zach Miller: [00:29:45] You know, I think Jordan Smith letter led some research out of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism here on campus that showed that the amount of time Utahns are spending in parks this year is double what it was last year. That is not a coincidence. That is part of this covid-19 response. These places are safe. They're low risk places. They reduce stress. So we're finding that these places are reservoirs for all these things that we need from the covid-19 pandemic.

 

Zach Miller: [00:30:16] So that means people are going to them and we have to figure out how to manage those places, particularly in the context of covid-19. So we are looking at things like how group size, how trail with and how density of use on the trails and the number of people hiking on the trails influences people's ability to stay physically distance from each other while recreating out of doors to help better inform managers how to be responsive to opening and managing visitor use during this pandemic. Yeah, what what's an underrated place if somebody was to go on a road trip, huh? Oh, let's see. Um, I think a lot of the national parks that are popular are popular for good reasons.

 

Zach Miller: [00:31:01] I'm a big fan of the desert, so a lot of Utah parks do pull up my heartstrings quite well. But I think some of the other desert parks like Joshua Tree National Park in California is really great, although it's not undiscovered whatsoever. I will tell you, there's a park I've never been to, but I've heard great things about it from everyone that I've ever talked to has gone there. And that's North Cascades National Park up in Washington. So I've heard really good things about North Cascades National Park, and I think it's also one of the least visited national park units as well. But it's got great glacial landscapes and Blue Lakes and all sorts of stuff. Olympic National Park, again, that one's not undiscovered whatsoever. That's another one. That's just really, really cool. Yeah. Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California is really cool.

 

Zach Miller: [00:31:49] It's got all sorts of geothermal features like Yellowstone, and it's got great hiking as well. And that is one that experiences quite low visitor use. I will say that I floated the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this last winter and it's really hard to get that experience out of your head.

 

Wyatt: [00:32:05] Yeah. That quit your job. If anyone ever offers you to go do that. It's incredible. Yeah. Yeah. How does. Place become a national park. I'm asking for my hometown because we've been trying to make craters of the moon. Yeah. Park and serve in monument, so.

 

Zach Miller: [00:32:22] I think so I've been to create is a new national monument several times, the superintendent there, his name is Wade Vegas and I'm trying to do some research and create the national park right now. It's also a dark skies park. It's got an incredible dark sky resource. So Craters of the Moon National Monument, the state of Idaho. Yeah. Passed legislation at the state level saying that the local government, the state of Idaho, would like to see it renamed to be a national park. So one of the things that can be controversial is if the local people don't want a park to be a park. And I mean, we can even see that in Grand Teton National Park. That's what happened. The Grand Teton right now. The locals, I think, love it, but at the time is quite controversial. So if you have local support and you have the federal land already, you have the things there to make a national park. I feel like so crazy. The moon is probably a likely candidate to me in the next few years, but it takes an act of Congress to make a national park and therefore you literally need an act of Congress to create these things. There's a lot of other things going on right now in the world, but maybe that's an even better reason to create a national park.

 

Wyatt: [00:33:37] You know, it's like investment for the future. Yeah, it's good to hear you say that. It's it could be a national park because, like, I do think it's great. And like, I grew up there and I took it for granted. And now when I go back and like, I take a trip out there, I'm like, oh, this is yeah. Pretty. But also it's like there's only maybe a day or two worth of stuff to do versus like I feel like, you know, like arches and science. They're just. There's a lot more to do, and maybe that's just because it takes longer to get to, you know, you can't park close to stuff, but yeah, that's cool to hear.

 

Zach Miller: [00:34:13] Well, and Craters of the Moon National Park would be critism in National Park and Preserve because they'd still maintain some traditional resource use there, which would include hunting in certain parts of that area. Yeah. And so the legislation would need to be mapped out. That's not unheard of at all. I mean, Denali National Park and Preserve, technically, there's hunting allowed in some parts of Denali. But yeah, let's add that to the list of underappreciated places for people to go visit, because I really like craters and that a lot.

 

Zach Miller: [00:34:37] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Sorry, you grew up in Arco, right?

 

Wyatt: [00:34:41] Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

 

Zach Miller: [00:34:42] So like, one of the things when I talk about, like people involved with conservation is the role that tourism plays in educating people about what they're trying to preserve. And it seems counterintuitive because in some ways you need more people to like go to Antarctica to see the penguins so that you have more people invested in saving the penguins or whatever you speak to that as like a scientist, that maturity. So I think, like, you know, John Muir, who's often called the grandfather of our national parks back in the early 1980s, he really popularized this idea that people need to go to these parks to protect them. They need to experience them if we're going to have their support for them. And I honestly believe that's largely still true. People have to go to these places and experience them in order for them to appreciate them and want to steward them into the future. I think that's true for visitors that are going to these parks. And I also think it's true that the communities around these parks need to see tangible benefits for them, for them to support them as well. And tourism is one of the ways that we can continue to foster those resources while, you know, providing economic opportunities for these local communities. In fact, Gifford Pancho, who helped found the Forest Service for the US, wanted all parks transferred to the forests in order to be managed like National Forest, which includes things like logging. And there was opposition to that because the only dignified exploitation of parks was tourism. I mean, this is in the early nineteen hundreds that all these conversations are going on and we're still having them today, really. So I think that it is beneficial for both the community and people to come visit these parks in order to steward them in the future. But again, equally important to going and visiting these parks is having a connection with the natural world in your local community. So that place based attachment, I think, is easy to carry over to national parks if you have a caring about the things in your backyard, because for a lot of people, going to Yellowstone is a once in a lifetime experience.

 

Zach Miller: [00:36:49] But what happens? I go home three hours away and I've still only been there once in a lifetime. And my dad didn't even wait around for Old Faithful to go off like, yeah. So, you know, I think you can go to those places. You experience them, you have fossils, you foster that relationship. But there's a guy named Robert Michael Pyle and he has a quote that says, you know, why is a condor going to matter to a kid who doesn't even know a house friend was are really common bird that almost anyone can see in their backyard. So, you know, we need to have that personal connection with nature on a daily basis. And I think that helps us experiencing these plays, experience these larger landscapes that are protected and do a better job of fostering both our local communities and kind of our more global community as well.

 

Wyatt: [00:37:32] All right. That was my conversation with Dr. Zach Miller. If you're looking for more information about Utah's national parks, you can listen to Episode 20. It's about the Colorado River and how it flows through a few of them. I hope you have the time and the health to appreciate the preserved areas around you where you can see the stars and feel the quiet. This episode of Instead was edited by Nick Vázquez and me. Wyatt Traughber is part of our work in the Office of Research at Utah State University.

 

Let there be light!
GNAR and the night sky
Managing a changing scene
The National Park of the future