Pressure from urban encroachment continues to plague the park, giving
rise to a suite of problems. Chronic air pollution has contributed to the
park’s placement on America’s Ten Most Endangered National Parks list for
the sixth consecutive year. Nearby coal-fired power plants and other
pollution sources continue to damage the spectacular views as well as
affect the health of park visitors and staff, and harm plants and animals.
Local developers and road builders, with the backing of local, state,
and federal politicians, continue to allow building right up to the park
boundary and have even asked to build within the park. In addition,
inadequate funding impedes a variety of operations designed to protect
natural resources, historic structures, and park visitors.
As Congress continues to focus on power plant pollution, legislation
must set a deadline for all plants to meet modern air standards and
maintain strong park protections. In addition, local citizens and decision-
makers must urge the Environmental Protection Agency to write strong park
haze rules for some of the oldest smokestacks. The Bush administration and
Congress must support the National Park Service’s charge to protect parks
and insist that parkland not be turned over to development projects that
will harm park resources.
Once an ongoing assessment of park resources is completed, park staff
can redouble efforts to protect the park from road building and
development. In addition, the park is currently developing a management
plan for the traffic-clogged Cades Cove area. At this time, alternative
transportation systems, such as a park shuttle system, are under
consideration. This plan will address several issues, including visitor
frustration, air pollution, wildlife disturbance, and increased response
time for law enforcement and other rangers.
Located within driving distance of two-thirds of the American population,
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is our most visited national park,
hosting more than 9 million people yearly — and generates nearly $1
billion in the local economy. It preserves a delicate ecosystem of rare
plants and wildlife as well as historic structures representing southern
Elevations in the park range from 875 to 6,643 feet.