"National Parks are the best idea we ever had," said Westerner, author and environmentalist Wallace Stegner in the 1950s. "Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
That is what most Americans believe. Anyone who has been to the Grand Canyon cannot even conceive of why the Park Service would not be given what it needs to preserve our wild places.
In these crazy times, however, to say that the parks belong to all of us somehow makes us socialists. "For House Republicans, the tea party is more important than the Tetons," Rep. Ed Markey warned the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.
Tea party bloggers are out there writing nonsense like, "Our National Park Service denies God!"
With their meat-axe approach to federal budgets, Republicans propose further deep cuts to a department that's barely able to fulfill its role now. And the tea party wants to keep it that way, no matter what the cost to the nation.
The Tetons, Yellowstone, the Great Smokey Mountains, the Everglades and the rest of this amazing system need help from all of us. It's more than a matter of dollars and cents.
Private partnerships, fees and capital projects are about dollars and cents. Developers will question if the Park Service is ignoring the highest and best use of the land. We must reply, "Highest and best use for whom?"
Our National Parks are about more than dollars and cents. They are about the best in us, and those who will come after.