Hiking with Shawn Opposes the National Park Service Transfer

This blog is a little different.

I’m officially stating my opinion on the Shawnee National Park and Climate Preserves proposal.

My opinion is that I and Hiking with Shawn OPPOSES the transfer of the Shawnee National Forest as the Shawnee National Park.

I have a few reasons that have helped form my opinion, but I want to clarify that I respect the opinions of others. I’ve seen a lot of ugly responses between those who are for and those who are against the idea. There is no place for that kind of behavior and attitude.

Why can’t people have opinions, and others simply disagree without name-calling and finger-pointing?

I respect Shawnee Forest Defense and its goals of stopping resource extraction. They’re an activist organization. They don’t like commercial timbering. I respect that.

I don’t think the Shawnee National Forest should rely on commercial resource extraction. However, I’m not exactly against resource extraction. I’m for it if thinning is being done to help preserve oak species. I hate seeing the mass extraction of cedar trees. I wish they would gradually thin them out. However, I could be wrong in thinking that, but the Shawnee and IDNR are about educating the public, so it’s easy for me to assume. Hint-hint-start educating the public!

But I understand the science behind extracting trees. I also understand the science behind doing prescribed fires. I’ve taken several emergency management courses in college. Prescribed fire prevents disaster. There is plenty of scientific evidence for that.

I think the Shawnee National Forest should utilize other ways of profiting. Tree extraction and mining aren’t the best options. That said, I still can’t support the National Park Service transfer.

I do have a few reasons why:

  1. National Parks are well managed and funded because they have fewer trails to worry about. They focus on well-used trails that can be easily maintained. I suspect Shawnee National Park will not have the 400+ miles of trails that the National Forest currently has. Closing trails will make it easier for the NPS to manage and fund a smaller amount. I suspect trails will be closed permanently under a transfer to the NPS.
  2. The NPS has strict rules against video and photography at parks. They are even worded in a way that puts non-commercial YouTube creators at risk. My brand could be seen as commercial even though I do not monetize my videos. If the Shawnee becomes a National Park, I may be forced to quit Hiking with Shawn. Under the National Forest, as long as I abide by the commercial-use rules, I’m free to do what I am doing without fear of being forced to shut down.
  3. We could lose things. A lot of people think hunting, pets, equestrian, cycling, and other things will be instantly banned from the park transfer. This is not correct. You can easily search and see that all of these things are allowed in many National Parks. However, it could be taken away if the Park Service feels it needs to be prohibited. Once the Shawnee becomes a park, some of those activities could be limited. I’d imagine the equestrians would lose a lot of trail access. While some non-equestrians would welcome that, I don’t think it’s very fair. I also don’t think restrictions on mountain biking are fair, either, so you know that I’m not taking sides.
  4. If the National Park Service takes over, there will be job loss. Forest Service Employees transferring the National Park Service Employees isn’t as simple as some might try to make it out to be. The federal government has a lot of red tape. If the park transfer occurs, friends and neighbors will lose their jobs. This is a hard economy to lose a job in. I don’t have the heart to agree with something that would cause that. I have a lot of friends in the Forest Service and none in the Park Service. I care about my Southern Illinois people!
  5. Eminent domain will be possible. Rarely do you see any landlocked National Park Service properties. Rarely do you see private land-locked National Park Service properties as well. There is a lot of that in the Shawnee National Forest. While it is said that property will not be forcefully taken from owners, the option still exists. Some think only certain sections of the National Forest should be acquired by the Park Service. I disagree with that idea as well. It only hinders the ability of the Forest Service to make money and will likely result in the loss of jobs.
  6. Climate Preserves. The very name of them almost seems like Nature Preserve. Are we being told exactly what they want these things to be? They say that everything we do now in the forest would be allowed in the preserves, such as hiking, wilderness camping, cycling, hunting, equestrian, etc. However, allowing many of those things isn’t always positive for preserving climate or nature. Most nature preserves are open to hikers only and are strict about staying on the trail. Since there is no such thing as a climate preserve, if the Park transfer occurs but they decide not to completely create this brand-new climate preserve idea, we may see changes noted above.
  7. The National Park Service is known for restricting off-trail use. This could impact hikers and hunters. I personally enjoy going off trail to look at bluffage, following creeks, and searching for old homesites to see what my area looked like before the forest was put in. I don’t encourage large user groups to go off-trail or user trails to be made. In precious areas, I try to stick to the designated trails. But the Park Service is known to enforce that rule with fines and even arrests. The Forest Service allows foot travel in Natural Areas. The Park Service will likely not allow it.
  8. The Park Service is known to close parks for just about any sort of advanced weather condition. If the river gets too high, they’ll restrict access to trails where flooding could occur. If too much snow falls, they’ll restrict access to areas where they deem it could be too dangerous. The Park Service will even close areas when a drought is occurring. They’re bad about closing areas down for that stuff. I’m against that completely. Enter at your own risk. It’s either public land, or it’s not. I was against closing it during COVID, too. A lot of bad mistakes were made with public land access during that.

Those are my reasons for NOT supporting the National Park Service transfer.

Now, don’t feel like I hate the National Park system. I definitely do not hate the NPS. I dislike their filming policies and find them to be discriminating and very anti-public land ownership. But for the rest of it, National Parks are a good thing.

They preserve important things that should be preserved.

I’ve been to several National Parks and hope to go to several more.

Every National Park employee I’ve met has been extremely helpful, friendly, and supportive of me recreating on NPS land.

I still have videos of my visits to the parks. I don’t monetize them. I will not take them down, either. If the park service did occur and my videos were threatened, I’d seek every bit of legal action that I could. Southern Illinois is MY HOME. I was born and raised here. I’m not a transplant. I’ll fight for my right to my land.

But National Parks do good things, as I was stating.

Many locals are worried about tourism booms. Indeed, a National Park designation would likely bring in more tourists. That happens. It would bring more money than hunting and equestrian brings in combined times two. Seriously. Park tourists outnumber hunters and horseback riders.

Shawnee National Park

I’m not against tourism increases. I’m for them. The local economy needs them, and the mom-and-pop shops that make southern Illinois unique need more tourism. But we can do that with what we have right now. We don’t need a National Park designation to make that possible. We just need to change our mindsets about tourism. I’m doing it with Hiking with Shawn, and I have no plans to stop.

I’m 100% FOR local tourism.

Now, with all this being said, I want to second my statement that I respect opinions even if they oppose mine. I respect Les, Sam, John, and everyone else behind this potential transfer. I’ve met these people, and they’ve treated me with respect as I have with them.

But even if I disagree with them, it doesn’t mean the situation needs to be disrespectful.

I urge everyone to be peaceful about this.

If you are for it, express that to those you vote for. If you are against it, express that to those you vote for. Don’t bully one another on the internet and social media. Be a civilized society and respect our freedom of being able to have our own opinions. We need to stop acting like ignorant cave people.

Hiking with Shawn officially opposes the National Park and Climate Preserve transfer.

I hope everyone respects my opinion, as I definitely respect yours.

Feel free to comment. Abusive and disrespectful comments will not be accepted on this blog or through my social media pages.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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