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Rocky Mountain National Park celebrates 100th Anniversary February 5, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , trackback

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Tracy L. Barnett
Special to USA Today

It was January 1915, and big things were happening. Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental phone call; the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an outlandish proposal to give women the vote; and the devastating Great War in Europe was making waves across the Atlantic, with the first U.S. ship lost to the war.

It was also the month that nearly a decade of organizing and lobbying on the part of a handful of Colorado citizens finally paid off with the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park, on January 26, 1915.

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“Whenever one of these great parks has an anniversary, it’s a real cause for celebration and also a moment to remember with gratitude our elders who brought these parks into being in the first place,” said Lloyd Burton, professor and environmental policy scholar at the University of Denver. “They decided that it was really important to ensure the legacy of wild, beautiful places for future generations – particularly at a time when there were powerful forces at work that wanted to slice and dice and privatize them – and quite frankly, those forces haven’t gone away.”

Indeed, as the beloved park begins its second century, it faces a number of challenges to its integrity. Climate change, with its recurring droughts and high temperatures throughout the West, has weakened the forests and is believed to have exacerbated a pine beetle blight that has destroyed millions of acres of lodgepole and Ponderosa pine. Another factor weakening the forest has been fire suppression. “Before settlers the fire was the way the forest healed itself; but since we started to suppress the fires, the forest is getting sicker and sicker.”

Read the whole story and see the historic slideshow here

RELATED: See my Rocky Mountain National Park guide, here.

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