Scientists ready for smog fight

The Associated Press
Wednesday February 28, 2001

RIVERSIDE — A group of University of California, Riverside scientists are tackling a curious problem for parks and wilderness areas in the West: smog. 

Seen as an urban ill, smog and haze also can shroud remote, otherwise scenic spots like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite’s Half Dome and Joshua Tree National Park in the desert east of Los Angeles. 

Armed with $1 million in federal research money, UC Riverside scientists will start work this month with a consortium of 12 Western states, as well as Native American and federal officials, to develop the first model explaining how car exhaust and other pollutants find their way to the sites. 

The two-year project, centered at the university’s Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology, will address the air quality in 160 national parks, monuments and wilderness areas. 

“The national parks are national parks for a reason,” said Mitch Boretz, a technical planning manager at the environmental center.  

“We really want to make all the effort we can to protect them.” 

The typical visual range at monuments and national parks in the West is 62 to 93 miles – half to two-thirds what it would be without pollution, according to Environmental Protection Agency documents. 

At times, visitors to the Grand Canyon, which drew 4.8 million people last year, can’t see the other side. 

Under a plan announced two years ago by then-Vice President Al Gore, the federal government demanded that the air quality around national parks be returned to pre-industrial clarity.