Dear Friend of the National Parks,

In a year unlike any other, we are grateful for a strong community of park advocates in the Southwest. Thanks to your support and the value Americans place on our parks, the past few months saw big — if temporary — victories for parks. Though we were also dealt a few setbacks, we head into 2021 unified in our mission to preserve parks for current and future generations. 

Safe from Oil & Gas Development ... for Now
In August we celebrated news that over 85,000 acres of public land would be removed from a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease sale held in September. This deferral — a result of a Herculean coalition effort — protects scenic and culturally significant lands near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Bears Ears National Monument from the blight and harmful impacts of oil and gas development. 

Clean Air & Climate a Priority for the Southwest
This fall, our efforts to secure the best possible air quality standards for national parks saw mixed results. As part of the regional haze rulemaking process, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved our proposal to accelerate the retirements of several coal plants in the state. These retirements mean clearer skies at national parks, such as Rocky Mountain (above), improved public health, and progress toward achieving Colorado's climate goals. As of this writing, we are awaiting a final decision from the state. That we've come this far is incredible no matter the final outcome.

In contrast, Utah took a giant step backwards when EPA approved the state’s weak regional haze plan, stymying the prior plan that would have dramatically cut pollution from Utah's oldest and dirtiest coal plants. Rest assured, clean air and climate action for parks and people remains a strong priority in the Southwest. Track our efforts on NPCA’s new Haze Hub

Opportunities to Expand Protections for Parks in Arizona
Looking to the end of the year, our work to fully protect park resources at three Arizona parks continues via proposed boundary expansion legislation. These additions would preserve wildlife habitat and enhance recreational opportunities at Saguaro National Parkprotect cultural sites at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (above), and consolidate visitor resources at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Contact Arizona Senior Program Manager Kevin Dahl at [email protected] for more information or to get involved. 

To learn more about some of the hidden gems and fascinating stories in the Southwest, check out our Park Talks webpage for recordings of talks featuring the Southwest, including Dinosaur National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Stay tuned for upcoming events! 

May parks and the public lands we all love continue to bring us together in the new year. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season. 



Ernie Atencio 
Regional Director, Southwest 

Photos: Some of our beautiful Southwest national parks, from top: Canyonlands, Rocky Mountain and Casa Grande © Kwiktor | Dreamstime, Bobby J Norris | Dreamstime and Imdan | Dreamstime

P.S. Want to voice your support for parks in the new administration? Ask President-Elect Biden to stand with Bears Ears and prioritize our parks from day one.