The US National Park Service recently celebrated its 100th birthday but the occasion wasn't particularly festive. Because the 413 areas under its jurisdiction, covering more than 84 million acres, are increasingly at risk. Not due to the usual threats, such as environment degradation from mass tourism, mineral and petroleum extraction, clear-cut lumbering, a lack of funds to maintain infrastructure, water overuse, air pollution and the decline of indigenous species.
No, beyond all that the real threat now is climate change. Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, acidifying oceans and receding ice all exacerbate such factors as erosion from rising tides, along with wildfires and a dramatic change in traditional fauna and flora. The result is that the glaciers in Glacier national park are fading fast, while the eponymous trees in Joshua Tree national park are on the endangered list. The Everglades? Don't ask.
Back in the 1930s the Works Progress Administration and its Federal Arts Project was behind an initiative to popularize the parks via a series of posters which are today in the collection of the Library of Congress. The one above is typical, employing a restricted palette and conjuring up a vast, unspoiled wilderness just waiting to be explored. Now 80 years later there's a new series of posters dedicated to the parks that echoes the original design vibe. The Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series is an initiative of The National Poster Retrospecticus, a traveling poster exhibition that involves more than 125 American poster designers. The series will include a poster for each of the National Parks by the time it draws to a close, designed by a variety of artists. Posters are available for sale online, with 5% going to the Park Service. And in a further echo of the 30s, the Library of Congress has committed to archiving the entire collection. So why not visit a few parks before they become unrecognizable and snag one of the larger, limited edition posters before they sell out? Time's a wastin'.