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America's national parks face challenges

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In many ways, Acadia typifies the state of US national parks today. It possesses extraordinary scenic beauty that remains largely intact. Americans visit it in impressive numbers.

But less visible forces are at work that could undermine its future.

This fall may prove to be a watershed moment for the parks, which historian and conservationist Wallace Stegner called “the best idea America has ever had.” They will earn a rare moment in the national spotlight, largely because of a six-part, 12-hour series by award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns that began Sept. 27. The documentary, which Mr. Burns calls “the most beautiful film we have ever made,” took 10 years to research and six years to film.

In addition, later this year a 28-member bipartisan board called the Second Century Commission, led by former Sens. Howard Baker Jr. and J. Bennett Johnston, is expected to issue its report on the challenges facing the parks as the National Park Service approaches its centennial in 2016. Many park advocates are also eagerly awaiting the new direction they hope the arrival of Jon Jarvis as the next director of the NPS will bring. His appointment, awaiting approval by the US Senate, could come at any time.

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