Park Service Report Calls for Environmental Protection
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2001 (ENS) - A National Park Service advisory board is urging the agency to change its managerial emphasis, from promoting tourism to protecting the park system's natural resources. The report cites challenges facing the National Park Service, and takes a new look at the agency, and the social, cultural and political environment within which it operates.
"This document envisions many of the same goals called for in President Bush's new Park Legacy Initiative, such as the need for improving the education value of park experiences; enhancing the science that protects biodiversity; increasing accessibility for all, including those with disabilities; expanding recreational opportunities, and much more." said newly appointed Park Service Director Fran Mainella.
The report from the National Park System Advisory Board identifies:
The report also observes that additional resources are needed to meet existing and new century challenges.
A Congressionally chartered, independent body of 12 members appointed by the Secretary of Interior, the Board makes recommendations on designating national landmarks and provides advice to the NPS Director about all matters relating to the National Park System and the Service.
The National Park Service had charged the board in December 1999 with developing a report that focused "broadly on the purposes and prospects for the National Park System over the next 25 years." The report was also to address long term strategic directions, not immediate day to day operational challenges.
The report calls for the Park Service to help in the creation of protected corridors between parks in order to keep wildlife populations from becoming isolated as surrounding lands are developed. The report also calls for stronger protection of marine resources, such as the nation's highly jeopardized coral reefs, and for heightened protection of biological diversity within parks.
A culturally inclusive approach to interpretation of events at historical sites and greater ethnic diversity among Park Service staff also are set as goals.
A recent opinion poll indicates public support for these goals and provides encouragement for the Bush administration to further refine and improve its national parks agenda. Completed by Wirthlin Worldwide for the NPCA, the nationwide poll indicated that 76 percent of Americans believe the priority of the Park Service should be to protect plants, animals and historical artifacts.
Consistent with that preference, those polled said they would like nearly three quarters of new government funding to be spent on protecting wildlife, preserving artifacts, and increasing visitor education programs.
Citizen emphasis on funding these goals runs counter to President Bush's plan to apply virtually all new funding to refurbishing park buildings and roads.
"Those polled said that only 27 percent of new park funds should be used for bricks and mortar," said Kiernan. "The advisory board's report should provide the Administration with a useful guide for continuing to improve its national parks agenda."
The Bush Administration has pledged to increase park funding by almost $5 billion over the next five years but has emphasized retiring the building repair backlog while ignoring the backlog of resource protection needs.
"The advisory board is aiming the parks in the right direction, and NPCA encourages the Bush Administration to join this vision," Kiernan said. "If carried out, the plan will bring significant and needed improvements to the park system."
The report is available at: http://www.nps.gov/policy/futurereport.htm