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Olympic National Park

Set among the towering, ancient rain forests and rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest, Olympic National Park perfectly represents both the harsh cultural conflicts surrounding conservation of public lands, and the negotiated compromises required for the ethos and values of the national park system to survive and flourish going forward. It’s one of the most beautiful and diverse parks in the country, but also one of the most segmented and vulnerable. Home to the last of the moss-covered coastal forests of giant Douglas Firs, Western Red Cedar and Sitka Spruce, and dotted with the clear, deep glacial lakes and cascading rivers of the Olympic Mountains, the park does, on the surface, seem to be an encapsulated paradise, insulated from the tremendous commercial development pressures that have ravaged the entire region.

But a closer look around the edges of the park, reveals decades of ruthless natural resource exploitation and a corrosive collective mindset of industrialization and capitalism at all costs. A dozen or more logging trucks per day, filled with the remnants of the last of the majestic mature forests, is a common and symbolic sight along the highway, and a single property line can make the difference between the original bio-rich forest lands and the kind of brutish clear-cut wastelands so common to the Pacific Northwest. Or worse yet, a soulless wood pulp farm; a monoculture of fast-growing trees, engineered solely to produce the greatest profit in the least amount of time. We are engineering our own ecological bankruptcy and poverty within one of the richest natural ecosystems on Earth! It simply doesn’t make any sense. Combined with the over-fishing of the oceans, destruction of wildlife habitat, loss of the salmon runs, multiple layers of industrial pollution on an epic scale, millions of acres lost to forest fires, and wildly destructive changes in the weather and seasons, it’s hard to envision a future for this wonderful park not permanently pock-marked by the tunnel-vision and excessive appetites of our worst enemy: the destructive nature of the American enterprise.

A time-lapse film of Sol Duc Falls