Tourism is one of the largest industries worldwide, and travellers commonly visit national parks because of the peaceful scenery they offer. While tourists love to see these natural environments in their undisturbed states, they are often times adding to the degradation of these parks. Tourists can harm the environment in many ways, and may be unaware of what they are doing. Many visitors are there to see the beauty in nature and are focusing on enjoying themselves and not what they are leaving behind. Actions such as trampling vegetation and parking in areas that are not designated for parking can add to the destruction of the land. Companies that run air tours and hiking tours are adding to the enjoyment of the visitor, but may not pay attention to how they are affecting other visitors as well as wildlife. Because of the amount of tourism in these areas, many problems arise and these issues have been brought to the attention of the public in order to save and maintain these areas from further harm.
The negative impact of tourism on national parks is a global problem. Parks in all countries and continents struggle with these issues and are looking for ways to minimize their affects. Other countries like England, Canada and some Asian countries are trying to reverse the impacts that tourists have on their natural preserved areas. Limiting research to only the United States in this thesis narrows the focus and creates an image of this problem on a smaller scale. This study will bring attention to the problem on a smaller scale and from there the big picture can be inferred.
There are three main sources of impact left on national parks by tourists:
depletion of national resources, pollution, and physical impacts. Tourism generates land degradation, air and noise pollution, littering, trampling and the alternation of ecosystems. All of these areas of impact not only risk the well being of the land, but also the species that call these areas home (Environmental). With the growing number of visitors to these parks, crowding becomes a major problem. In the National Park Service’s Natural Resource Challenges, park officials acknowledge the issue, saying, “Parks are becoming increasingly crowded remnants of primitive America in a fragmented landscape, threatened by invasions of non-native species, pollution from near and far, and incompatible used of resources in and around parks (McLean 201).” Crowding can minimize the ability to enjoy these scenic areas and also lessens the quality of the parks natural resources (Butcher 494-496). If visitation is uncontrolled or visitors overuse the land, landscapes, historic sites can degrade.
Crowding can also produce large amounts of stress, annoyance, anger and other attitudes that will lessen the peaceful experience that tourists seek in national parks (Kreag 8, 11). If the carrying capacity has been reached many negative things start occurring in the park, which is a sign that there is too much crowding (Boo 22).
The consistent visitation from tourists can disrupt wildlife in drastic ways. The massive amounts of visitors can disturb the breeding cycles of animals and alter their natural behaviours (Kreag 8). Animal behaviour starts changing once crowding begins. Nesting patterns of birds change, the numbers of animals begin to reduce and in worst case scenarios species can become extinct (Boo 22-23).
Many national parks have tourist facilities, such as bathrooms or information centres. These areas are also impacting the land. They reduce some of the natural landscape of the area and can be considered aesthetic degradation. Though many tourist facilities in national parks try to keep the theme of nature involved, they are not always in sync with species, pollution from near and far, and incompatible used of resources in and around parks (McLean 201).” Crowding can minimize the ability to enjoy these scenic areas and also lessens the quality of the parks natural resources (Butcher 494-496). If visitation is uncontrolled or visitors overuse the land, landscapes, historic sites can degrade.