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Nearly All National Parks Suffer From Poor Air Quality

Rocky Mountain National Park
Creative Commons 2.0
Rocky Mountain National Park

A new report shows that nearly all national parks in the U.S. have poor air quality.

The report from the National Parks Conservation Association says that 96% of our national parks have significant air pollution problems. In fact, it says, 33 of America’s most-visited national parks are as bad as our 20 largest cities.

“Air pollution is on the rise, unfortunately,” said Tracy Coppola with NPCA, “and enforcement against polluters across the mountain west and across the nation really has plummeted.”

Coppola said some of the pollution comes from nearby oil, gas, and coal operations as well as major metropolitan areas. She said climate change is also making it worse. This puts human and ecosystem health at risk – and it also harms the very experience of visiting a national park.

“So when you go to a park you expect to see beautiful vistas and enjoy your time in that precious space,” Coppola said, “but a lot of times air pollution is obscuring these scenic park views.”

Coppola said park visitation drops by at least 8% when air pollution is high.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 KRCC. To see more, visit KRCC.

Ali Budner is KRCC's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.
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