?There is a need for more state and national parks and better management of those we already have. For example, at famous Yellowstone the Park Service's stewardship has become, in the words of Naturalist Peter Farb, "an act of official vandalism." Concessionaires have been encouraged to build a supermarket, trinket shop, laundry and 1,000 shoddy cabins within the park, while the Service itself constructed a parking lot that destroyed Daisy Geyser, one of the main attractions. Noel Eichorn, who is doing a study of the national parks for the Conservation Foundation, reports that in most parks concessionaires are so firmly entrenched that they are telling the Park Service what to do.
We need new parks not only to meet future needs but to relieve pressure on those we have. The crush of visitors to certain national parks has been such that the rationing of admissions is being considered. Parks should be chosen so as to include representative samples of all kinds of habitat and scenery in the United States. William Bronson of the California Tomorrow association has suggested the establishment of a Napa Valley National Vineyard. The Napa Valley is one place that the hand of man has blessed, but "development" for tract houses could destroy it. Given protection, the Napa Valley could remain productive, its beauties unimpaired. The same might be done for other high-quality agricultural lands. (In California 140,000 acres of farmland annually succumb to the developer's bulldozer.)
?We must end the engineer's tyranny over the environment. As Kenneth Boulding, professor of economics at the University of Michigan, has remarked, "The domination of almost all our resources policy by engineers and people of this kind is utterly disastrous." Engineers have technical competence to offer, but often a limited outlook as well. Putting an engineer in charge of a resource such as a river basin is no smarter than hiring a plumber to design a fountain. Then again, as William Bronson has written, "Engineers have a tradition of first establishing...all manner of monstrosities, and then finding economic justification for building them."
If bureaucracies—among them the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Federal Power Commission and the Atomic Energy Commission—are not curbed by creation of the proposed Department of Natural Resources, their powers should be subject to review under a strengthened Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. The present act is so weak as to be useless. As the act now stands, most of these agencies are required only to consult with the Secretary of the Interior about possible harm to fish and wildlife by a project. They are under no obligation to heed the Secretary's advice—and they seldom have. They are engineering-oriented. Moreover, the AEC and the FPC show disquieting signs of having become the captives of the very industries they were set up to police in the public interest.
?Specific congressional legislation is needed on thermal pollution. The AEC does not regulate the temperatures of cooling water discharged into the body of water from which it was taken. Nuclear power plants, which use great amounts of water to cool their reactors, pose tremendous dangers. Hot water discharged into a bay, river or even the ocean can create biological deserts. A 3� or 4� temperature difference can be critical. Nuclear plants discharge water 11� to 23� hotter than it was on intake. More than 100 nuclear plants are on the drawing boards, and by 1980 the power industry will be using one-fifth of the total freshwater runoff of the United States for cooling. In a recent scientific paper Dr. Joseph A. Mihursky and V. S. Kennedy of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory noted, "It is obvious a very serious problem will exist in the near future." There already has been one scandalous fish kill at a nuclear plant (A Stink of Dead Stripers, SI, April 26, 1965), but as long as aquatic life is not being killed by radiation, the power industry and the AEC are unconcerned. The temperature of discharged water can be controlled, but the commission apparently has other fish to fry. When Congressman John Dingell asked Harold Price, Director of Regulation for the AEC, why the commission was not concerned about thermal pollution, Price replied, "I guess we don't feel that the initiative for doing something about it rests with us."
?Strong congressional legislation is needed to afford protection to coastal estuaries and wetlands. The marshes, bay bottoms and estuaries, where salt and fresh water meet, are the most valuable and productive areas on the North American continent. Marshes, for instance, are up to six times richer than the average wheat land. Yet nowhere has destruction been more savage and blind than along our coasts. Destroying wetlands or fouling estuaries makes as much sense as burning down a bank, yet the destruction continues at an appalling rate. Connecticut, for instance, now has only 20 square miles of good wetland area left. The remainder lies buried under highways, garbage dumps, factories and houses. In actuality the estuarine-wetland complex that runs from Massachusetts to Florida is one of the natural wonders of the world.
In recent years persistent encroachment and defilement has caused a dramatic decline of fish—in both commercial and sports catches. The American Littoral Society reports that between 1960 and 1965 the total catch of 18 coastal species slumped from 1.4 billion pounds to 700 million pounds—exactly half, in only five years' time. Among the fishes that are dependent on the Atlantic Coast estuaries are alewives, mackerel, Atlantic sturgeon, blackback flounder, black drum, blackfish, bluefish, croaker, fluke, king whiting, menhaden, mullet, porgy, red drum, sea trout, shad, short-nosed sturgeon, spearing, spot, striped bass, summer herring, tomcod, weakfish and white perch. Destroy the estuaries, rip up bay bottoms, fill in marshes and you destroy these species. It does no good to go out in the ocean. The ocean isn't "full of fish." The ocean is a desert by comparison with inshore Cape Cod, Long Island Sound, the Hudson River, Great South Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Pamlico Sound, et al.
The coastal fishery resources of the United States are the greatest single wildlife resource this country possesses. It offers respite to millions of people and is worth billions of dollars. So far only one state, Massachusetts, has effectively moved to protect this resource. Massachusetts law prohibits alteration of a salt marsh. When one developer fought this law, the court upheld the state, finding, "Broad Marsh is a 'salt marsh' necessary to preserve and protect marine fisheries.... Property is acquired by private citizens with the tacit understanding that it shall not be used to the detriment of the public, and the legislature is authorized to take action to prevent such detrimental use." Owners of marshland who seek compensation can have it set by court. So far no one has applied.
Not every state has the vigor of Massachusetts in protecting its coastal resources. New York, for example, is a study in futility. The bays and wetlands of Long Island are not protected from abuse; they are not even considered navigable waters, hence they are subject to unnecessary dredging, filling or other desolation. A favorite trick is to mine sand and gravel under the subterfuge of creating a navigation channel. An ocean liner could be floated in some of the gouges.
Even if New York took prompt and proper action, problems would still remain for numerous species of fish that move up and down the coast. If, for instance, North Carolina decided to seal off or fill in its coastal sounds the fluke population would be wiped out. Fluke eggs are laid at sea, but the larval fish are carried into the sounds by currents, and there they stay in the shallow waters, protected from larger predators and feeding on the crabs, bait-fishes and marine worms of the estuary. When the fluke are about six inches long, they begin working their way up along the coast to waiting fishermen in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. If the North Carolina fishery were destroyed, fishermen in the states to the north could protest, but they could not enforce any reform in North Carolina.