May 2007

U.S. Park Service reconsiders highway scheme

The U.S. Park Service agreed to reconsider its ill-conceived plan to build a 34-mile road through untouched portions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — one of the crown jewels of America's National Park System. BioGems Defenders sent some 62,000 messages protesting the scheme, joining an outcry from Senate leaders and county commissioners. At a cost of at least $600 million in taxpayer dollars, the highway would have despoiled portions of the celebrated Appalachian Trail, as well as vital habitat for black bears, migratory songbirds and other wildlife. Road construction would have polluted local waterways with acidic runoff and heavy metals, contaminating nearby streams with toxic chemicals and killing aquatic life in one of the world's most species-rich watersheds.