How to Not Love the National Parks to Death

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How to Not Love the National Parks to Death

More visitors than ever will head to national parks this summer. Here’s what we can do to keep the wild in wilderness—and set parks on a sustainable path for the next century
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Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 3:00pm

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This year marks the centennial of the National Park Service, and record numbers of visitors are expected to celebrate by exploring the system’s incomparable natural, historical, and cultural resources. All those adventure seekers impact parks. But there’s a respectful way to go about it.

When a tourist loaded a young bison into the back of his car at Yellowstone National Park last month, the incident shocked people inside and outside the park. But there are ways all visitors—park veterans or nature newbies—can minimize effects on these irreplaceable places and set parks on a sustainable path for the next century. You can help keep the wild in wilderness and maybe even leave parks better than you found them.

Keeping the Wild in Wilderness
Since the bison calf incident on May 9, Yellowstone National Park officials are on high alert. The driver, Shamash Kassam, of Canada, was cited for “picking up and disturbing a bison calf” when he encountered what he said was a “wet and shivering” calf in Lamar Valley. Concerned for its survival, he said, he plucked the bison from the roadway, placed it into the back of his SUV, and drove it to nearby Lamar Buffalo Ranch. Attempts by park personnel to reintegrate the calf into its herd were unsuccessful, and, since it posed a safety concern by continually approaching people, it was euthanized. According to the Casper Star-Tribune of Casper, Wyo., Kassam pleaded guilty on June 2. He was sentenced to six months probation and ordered to pay a fine and a $500 contribution to the Yellowstone Park Foundation Wildlife Protection Fund.

According to those with decades of experience in the country’s first national park, visitors do best by wildlife if they keep their distance, don’t ever feed the animals, and take photos focused more on the animals and less on their selfies. Many parks, including Yellowstone, require a 25-yard buffer zone for ungulates like deer, elk, and bison and a 100-yard no-go zone for predators like bears and wolves.

“Some people just think that’s a suggestion, but the rules are not arbitrary; they are in the best interest of people and resources,” says Yellowstone spokesperson Charissa Reid.

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