Friday, October 2, 2009

Burning out on Burns

Last night's episode of The National Parks: America's Best Idea was the least enjoyable so far. It was probably mostly because I was tired, but after 8 or 9 hours of the show, I think I am starting to get tired of watching it. Perhaps they should have spaced the episodes out a bit, say two or three episodes a week over a few weeks. Part of it was also Ken Burns' fault. In this episode he went off on a fairly long tangent, the only one in the series. My attention wavered and never really came back for the rest of the episode. This also illustrates Ken Burns' primary flaw: his style is very slow and interest in his shows requires deep interest in the material itself. I don't think anyone could watch a Ken Burns documentary about a subject in which they weren't especially interested.

Of course, there were several things in the episode which were interesting. The CCC, Roosevelt's best idea, was covered. We are still enjoying the results of their labor. One thing I was not aware of is that Franklin Roosevelt and his Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, were very interested in National Parks and the best friends of the parks in Washington since Theodore Roosevelt. It was they who brought battlefields and memorials into the Park Service as well as adding several more parks.

The featured park was Everglades NP, which was the first National Park to be created for the purpose of preserving wildlife rather than scenery or history. This new attitude was largely due to George Wright, a Park Service biologist who studied wildlife in the parks and stressed its importance. He helped institute modern wildlife management techniques, specifically letting wildlife be wild rather than entertainment. Grand Teton NP was finally expanded to include Jackson Hole after Rockefeller issued an ultimatum. He had held the land for 15 years and was getting tired of waiting. He told the president to either accept the land donation or he would sell it. The ultimatum had the desired effect.

Tonight is the final episode, which will feature the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the only decent thing to come out of Jimmy Carter's administration.

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