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.
pic 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.
Park Description: 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 Appalachian culture.
Elevations in the park range from 875 to 6,643 feet.