Happy 50th birthday, Capitol Reef National Park! First protected as a national monument in 1937, Capitol Reef became a national park fifty years ago, in 1971. Many environmental and cultural protection laws passed during the last fifty years continue to improve our lives today. In Capitol Reef, visitors can experience the results of these landmark laws, including the sight of a soaring peregrine falcon, the taste of a crisp, sweet apple from our historic orchards, and our clean, clear air.
Peregrine falcons, the fastest birds in the world, were at the brink of extinction by the 1960s. DDT, an insecticide widely sprayed on food crops, worked its way up the food chain into the falcons’ diet. The birds’ eggshells became extremely thin and broke easily when parents sat on their nest of eggs. Peregrine falcons were listed as Endangered under the 1969 predecessor to the Endangered Species Act. Three years later, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT and states started creating recovery plans. The park’s peregrine falcon population was monitored for decades as the species recovered until their delisting in 1999.
Visitors who stroll through the orchards, can thank the 1966 Historic Preservation Act, which protected the farming oasis of Fruita. This Rural Historic Landscape was listed on the National Register in 1997, and gives visitors a taste of past times, before modern technologies existed and year-round fruit became available.
Take a deep breath. The fresh air filling your lungs is thanks to the Clean Air Act of 1970, which helped control air pollution at a national level. In 1977, Capitol Reef was designated a Class I airshed, recognizing its exceptional quality and receiving the highest protection. On a moonless night, our clean air contributes to a wondrous scene, thousands of stars piercing through the dark sky above.
Over the next fifty years, national parks throughout the country will face challenges including the effects of climate change, increasing visitation, and limited staffing. It will take all of us to ensure that threatened and endangered species have a home in Capitol Reef, future visitors are offered a taste of pioneer times in the Fruita orchards, and all living things have clean air. Celebrate Capitol Reef’s golden anniversary by helping to protect our natural and cultural resources for generations to come.