If you’re on Instagram, then chances are you have a friend who’s taken a selfie at Joshua Tree National Park or one of the poppy fields in California, or maybe even atop a cliff overlooking the Colorado River known as Horseshoe Bend.
National parks and public lands across the country have seen an explosion in tourism in part due to the rise of social media and geo-tagging. However, amid the influx of crowds, there is a desperate effort to preserve the land for generations to come.
In Horseshoe Bend alone, tourism has risen from about 4,000 visitors a year to 2.2 million — that’s over 4,000 in a single day. Tourism there took off in 2015, according to Michelle Kerns, deputy superintendent for the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, the unit of the U.S. National Parks Service that manages the Bend.
“We saw this huge rise in social media, especially Instagram,” Kerns told “Nightline.” “I think it’s a huge contributor.”
The spike in tourists to Horseshoe Bend has become so large that it’s required Kerns and her team to add new safeguards not just for the people visiting — such as constructing a railing along the cliffside so that tourists can snap selfies safely — but also for the land itself so future sightseers will be able to experience the parks as they always have been.
“If we didn’t, we would see a lot of resource damage,” Kerns said. “We would see human waste, we would see trash. … When you add two million visitors to a place like Horseshoe Bend, you have to manage for their needs, and oftentimes, it’s that really unsexy conversation of human waste and trash.”
Striking this balance is paramount to those working in the parks as well as those who come to visit and experience some solitude in the wilderness. Jerry Ginsberg has spent the last 30 years taking photos of national parks and public lands across the U.S. He told “Nightline” that in his time as a photographer, he’s seen the wilderness diminish as the population has grown.
“One thing that makes me very sad is to see canyons and forests and trees that were formerly pristine just completely destroyed,” he said. “This sandstone that we’re seeing here in the Southwest is really very soft and with a greater influx of people, it creates more wear and tear, and eventually, given enough time, they’ll lose their scenic attractiveness.”
Ginsburg spoke with “Nightline” at the Grand Canyon, a world wonder that’s no stranger to tourists. He said that everyone should be able to capture the same gorgeous views as those before them, but also suggested that photographers look elsewhere. For example, while most people gather along the southern rim of the canyon, the quieter northern rim is just as spectacular.
This article was originally sourced from here.