Saturday, April 11, 2015

National parks and article titles

A few days ago, articles with titles like "Senate Republicans Vote To Sell Off Our National Parks To Private Industry" started appearing regarding the US Senate passing Amendment 838 to Concurrent Resolution 11.  Although the amendment in question is certainly not one I support for a number of reasons, the title of the article I linked above (and many other articles about the amendment have similar titles) is misleading.  First, the amendment actually specifically excludes national parks, as well as national preserves and national monuments.  It includes all other federal lands, though, meaning national forests, wilderness areas, and others.  Second, it isn't a bill selling any lands, or even making legal the selling of any lands.  What it discusses is "sell[ing] or transfer[ring] [the aforementioned lands] to, or exchang[ing] with, a State or local government", and it doesn't even authorize that.  It basically says that in the future this should be considered in another committee or amendment.  (It also doesn't directly include anything about private industry, but the discussion surrounding the amendment and other attempted laws over the past few years make it clear that the purpose of this law would be to then have the state and local governments sell or lease the lands to energy companies.)
Not all of the articles are straight-up factually incorrect like the above one.  Gizmodo's article at least properly references national forests instead of parks in the title, and (albeit buried deep in the article) includes the disclaimer about it being a nonbinding budget amendment.  However, I expect that 90%+ of the people who see even that article are going to come away with an incorrect impression of what occurred, and that's not a stunning example of good journalistic ethics, to put it mildly.

That said, I completely agree with the authors of the above articles about this being a very bad sign, even if it isn't yet legally binding.  Although the protected national parks are more well-known, some of the most beautiful and impressive places in the country lies in the forests and wilderness areas, including pretty much every trail or peak I've ever hiked.  If a law like what's mentioned above does get passed and forests start being sold, I will be in the first wave of monkeywrenchers out there to stop it, but that hasn't happened yet and it's misleading to make people think that it has.