DEAR DR. FOX: I enjoyed your article about how tourism disturbs wildlife, which is a serious issue that needs more attention. You and your readers will enjoy a recent article by professor Emily Wakild of Boise State University, parts of which I am sending to you. -- D.G., West Palm Beach, Florida
Excerpt from "U.S. National Parks Are Crowded" by Emily Wakild, TheConversation.com, June 20:
"Outdoor recreation is on track for another record-setting year. In 2022, U.S. national parks logged more than 300 million visits -- and that means a lot more people on roads and trails. While research shows that spending time outside is good for physical and mental health, long lines and gridlocked roads can make the experience a lot less fun. Crowding also makes it harder for park staff to protect wildlife and fragile lands and respond to emergencies. To manage the crowds, some parks are experimenting with timed-entry vehicle reservation systems and permits for popular trails.
"For all their popularity, national parks are just one subset of U.S. public lands. Across the nation, the federal government owns more than 640 million acres (2.6 million square kilometers) of land. Depending on each site's mission, its uses may include logging, livestock grazing, mining, oil and gas production, wildlife habitat or recreation -- often, several of these at once. In contrast, national parks exist solely to protect some of the most important places for public enjoyment. ...
"Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic engine: In 2021, it contributed an estimated $454 billion to the nation's economy -- more than auto manufacturing and air transport combined. But embracing recreational tourism can lead local communities into the amenity trap -- the paradox of loving a place to death. Recreation economies that fail to manage growth, or that neglect investments in areas like housing and infrastructure, risk compromising the sense of place that draws visitors. But planning can proactively shape growth to maintain community character and quality of life."
DEAR D.G.: I hope all nature lovers, and those who find renewal outdoors, will take note. I have witnessed how visitors can unintentionally disturb wildlife; this is a major problem with ecotourism in protected wildlife areas around the world.
DOGS BITE MORE FREQUENTLY ON HOT, SMOGGY DAYS
Dogs may be more likely to bite on days that are hot, sunny and smoggy than on cooler days with low levels of pollution, according to researchers who compared dog bite data with data on daily weather and air pollution in eight U.S. cities. "We conclude that dogs, or the interactions between humans and dogs, are more hostile on hot, sunny and smoggy days, indicating that the societal burden of extreme heat and air pollution also includes the costs of animal aggression," researchers wrote in Scientific Reports (doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-35115-6).
Perhaps our dogs are telling us something that connects with the increased human violence evident in society today.
We are experiencing an anthropogenic, climatic apocalypse with extreme weather events of greater frequency and intensity across the U.S. and around the world. Not only dogs suffer, but all creatures, wild and captive -- especially those in factory farms. It is also disturbing that scientists are documenting the risks of long-term exposure to various environmental pollutants -- including toxic chemicals, harmful microparticles, electropollution and noise -- to the health and brain development of children. I know of no other animal that fouls its nest, and the habitats of other species, like we do.
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