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Backpacker Magazine – November/December 2005

National Parks Inc.

Like it or not, national parks are officially in the business of business. Will this focus destroy the soul of a national institution--or save it in these lean times?

by: Eryn Brown

Proponents of business-practice reform acknowledge the limitations of what they're trying to do. These analyses can only help so much until funding levels catch up with federally mandated wage hikes and mushrooming maintenance costs. Bob Krumenaker, superintendent of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin and a big fan of the Business Plan Initiative, has saved thousands by trading his SUV for a pickup and reducing the number of boats the park operates, among other things. (He doesn't know how much he's saved overall: "Figuring out that number is a luxury we've never had time for," he says.) Still, Krumenaker may have to limit public access to his parks' nine historic lighthouses, because at current budget levels "we're barely able to keep roofs on them and keep them standing." The park's business plan confirmed that its $2.5 million operational budget was underfunded by 58 percent.

Apostle Islands isn't alone. Funding shortfalls have left thousands of jobs unfilled. According to the 2004 NPCA report "Endangered Rangers," many programs have been sharply cut, including anti-poaching efforts and museum curation at Glacier National Park, and educational tours and the monitoring of petroglyphs at Death Valley. "What we're doing with management is critical--but it only answers part of the problem," says the NCPA's Voorhees. "The budget crisis is too aggressive."

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