As ever, this isn't quite what George Monbiot thinks he is arguing but it is what he is so. We shouldn't have national parks at all:
Visit any national park in Britain and ask yourself what you are seeing. Is it the “wild”, “unspoilt” landscape the brochures and display boards promised? Or is it eerily bereft of wildlife and rich ecosystems? Is it managed in the interests of the nation or for a tiny, privileged minority? I suspect that if we saw such places called national parks in another country, we would recognise them for what they are: a complete farce.
One of the reasons for this dire state is burning. Much of the land in our national parks is systematically burned, with the blessing of the agencies supposed to protect it. This vandalism is sometimes justified as a “conservation tool”, but it bears as much relationship to the conservation of wildlife as burning libraries bears to the conservation of books. So weird has our engagement with nature in this country become that we can no longer tell the difference between protection and destruction.
On Dartmoor and Exmoor, the national park authorities and the National Trust, charged with protecting the land, instead torch it to favour sheep.
We do not, mean, not at all, that there should be no wild areas. Nor that we don't enjoy, luxury in in fact, that great outdoors ourselves. Rather, that the centralised control of these things will always lead to this sort of result.
This is, again as we've pointed out before, an implication of Mancur Olson's predictions. The State is the manner in which special interest groups fight each other for their share of us and ours. When such centralisation takes place - and the National Trust is as with the national park administrations, really a part of that state these days - then only those significantly and seriously interested in the outcome are going to fight for their desires.
Sure, we can dream that disinterested and impartial civil servants will do what's best but that ain't the way it turns out. The special interests are intensely interested in the deliberations and decisions of those central authorities - thus they strive and all too often succeed in taking them over. Bye bye that disinterest and impartiality then.
Not having the concentration of power into national parks and the National Trust etc would mean that the system would be more difficult to take over. Leaving land to be managed as those who own it wish would equally lead to a wider palette of decisions over what to do with it. It is our very concentration of power in order to exercise it which means that the power is co-opted against our desires.
The answer being don't concentrate the power in the first place. But then the argument that we must abolish the national parks in order to save the environment is always going to be a difficult one to make. Even if it is the one George Monbiot is making if only he knew it.