Improve Air Quality at National Parks

Target: Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service

Goal: Make plans to improve air quality at the 26 national parks that failed EPA standards.

Many of America’s national parks have failed the EPA’s newest standards for ozone pollution. The high ozone levels range from a staggering 114 parts per billion (ppb) at Dinosaur National Monument, which is 60 percent higher than the allowable level of 70, to a troubling 69 ppb at the Grand Canyon.

The 26 parks in question are some of the most splendid showcases of natural beauty the nation has to offer. So just how can these natural wonders be the sites of low air quality? The answer is a apparently a matter of debate. The high ozone levels may be caused by traffic in, out, and around the parks. This theory puts the blame on vehicles of the nearly 3 million visitors that flock to the nation’s parks yearly. However, the National Park Service contests that the levels are caused by drifting pollution from nearby power plants.

Scientists and state officials, especially in California where 9 parks are in violation, urge that ozone pollution is generally caused by car emissions, not power plants. Power plants have greatly reduced their emissions of ozone-causing pollutants in recent years, and the small amounts that may drift over to parks are likely not enough to amount to the high levels. The National Park Service should not be looking to blame outside sources for poor air quality, but for ways to improve the condition as soon as possible. Please urge the director to develop a plan to tackle this problem.


Dear Director Jarvis,

It has come to my attention that 26 national parks have failed the EPA’s standards for ozone pollution, while others just barely squeak by. It is a troubling reality of our nation that not even the most wild and serene places are safe from pollution. Scientists and state officials report that the ozone levels are likely caused by the large amount of traffic going through these parks. With nearly 3 million yearly visitors on average across all parks, it is easy to see how this could be a problem.

Yet the National Park Service continues to contest that the problem is caused by outside sources, such as power plants. This is unlikely due to dramatic reductions in ozone agents that have taken places at most power plants in recent years, and the fact that high densities of vehicles are much more known to cause ozone pollution. I encourage the Park Service to be realistic about the air quality at these parks, and to consider implementing traffic restrictions to improve air quality. Tourism at national parks is important, but it is more important we maintain environmental quality for years to come.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Gary Stolz

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