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The voluntary measure was instituted to reduce litter but only targeted water, not other soft drinks.

Mike Pomranz
August 21, 2017

For all of history, humans have understood that hydration is an important part of staying alive. Along those lines, if you’re planning a trip to a national park, being prepared by packing a reusable water bottle would only seem sensible. So in 2011, the National Park Service under the Obama administration tried to nudge this idea along, encouraging a voluntary ban on the sale of bottled water at national park—a move designed to reduce a major source of litter. But now, the Trump administration has decided to end this policy—which admittedly wasn’t necessarily perfect to begin with.

23 out of America’s 417 national parks, including some big names like the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, had taken action on the 2011 voluntary ban by placing restrictions on bottled water sales, according to NPR. However, opponents of the rule, such as the International Bottled Water Association, believed it unfairly targeted water: Other bottled beverages like soda and energy drinks—which have been targeted in different scenarios over health concerns—weren’t included in the policy. Of course, if reducing litter was the top priority, the suggested ban could have been extended to all packaged beverages, but then again, does it really make sense to not allow the sale of any drinks in national parks?

In the end, the Trump administration has decided to ax the policy. “While we will continue to encourage the use of free water bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park,” Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds said in a statement. Proponents of the old ban suggest the change in heart is another example of the Trump administration letting lobbyists dictate policy or simply removing Obama-era decisions out of spite.

But regardless of the reason, National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum made a simple but valid point to the Associated Press. “Not everyone shows up to a national park with their own water bottle,” he said. Still, politics aside, this whole debate should provide one basic reminder: Don’t litter in national parks.