Masking rules take effect on public lands

On Jan. 20, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring coronavirus prevention protocols — including mask-wearing — on all federal lands and buildings. Now, management teams at National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service lands are deciding how to implement the new requirement locally. 

Masks required at Park Service facilities

Face masks are now required at all National Park Service buildings and facilities as a result of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing issued Jan. 20.

Congress passes legislation to fund parks, conservation

The environmental community has been celebrating since the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act July 22, sending the landmark legislation to the desk of President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

America, mile by mile: Cross-country trip reveals country’s beauty, diversity

Back when the trip was a new idea, I don’t think either of us took it seriously. Three weeks on the road, at a time when most American cars were sitting idle in the driveway? Thousands of miles of driving through sand and snow, mountain and desert, far from home? Surely this was just a pie-in-the-sky dream borne from the hunger pangs of quarantine, nothing more. 

National parks battle invasion

The National Park Service is embarking on a system-wide effort to crack down on invasive animal species following the conclusion of a three-year research endeavor conducted by a panel of experts in fields ranging from park management to emerging technology. 

The Park Service reached out to members of the group in 2016, asking them to review the agency’s existing approach to invasive animal management and to look at the results of data collected from park units across the country. Combining panel members’ expert knowledge with data results and information gleaned from questions to park staff, the group produced an internal report to the Park Service as well as a scientific paper published this month in the journal “Biological Invasions.”

National parks should not depend on fees

By Mark Jamison • Guest Columnist | In Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy, the political philosopher Michael Sandel discusses the tension between concepts of citizenship as a participatory responsibility and concepts of government as merely a transactional entity, another business from which we obtain services. In later work, Sandel bemoans our slide from a market economy to a market society, an all-encompassing concept that everything is for sale. Sandel’s discussions came to mind as I read Scott McLeod’s recent opinion piece Time to face reality regarding the Smokies.

Partial government shutdown continues; National parks still accessible to visitors

Congress’s failure to approve a discretionary spending budget led to another partial government shutdown beginning Dec. 21, and Western North Carolina’s economy will once again feel the impact the longer it continues.

A firm foundation: SCC graduates 100th class of future National Park Service officers

It’s been a full morning on top of a full week, and I’m tired when I file into the fluorescent-lighted classroom Tuesday afternoon. A large, laminated topo map of the Cashiers area is sitting on the table when I arrive at my seat, a dry erase marker and protractor tool arranged on top. 

A magical thing: Retiring Parkway superintendent reflects on 37 years with the Park Service

Mark Woods will retire as superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway on July 3, but on July 4 he’ll don the flathat one last time as grand marshal of the Lake Junaluska Fourth of July Parade. 

“That was a surprise, to get that call,” Woods said. “We have family here, and every year there’s a family reunion that’s been going on for years at Lake Junaluska, so I’ve been coming here for as long as I’ve been married. To me this area is so special.”

Federal hiring freeze will have local impacts

A blanket freeze on federal hiring is having a local impact as the agencies tasked with managing Western North Carolina’s roughly 1.5 million acres of public land halt the hiring of seasonal employees responsible for keeping the area’s national parks and forests safe, clean and educational for the millions of visitors who seek them out each year. 

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