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November/December 2005

The Future Of National Parks

Everyone loves national parks--but are they being loved to death? Join representatives from the Park Service, Department of the Interior, Sierra Club, American Hiking Society, and more to explore the fate of this embattled American institution.

HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE FINANCIAL HEALTH OF THE PARKS?

Gale Norton The parks certainly do better than any other federal land management agency. People love the parks; they want to see them well taken care of.

Bruce Hamilton The parks are chronically underfunded. If you look at the backlog, we have basically relegated science and biology and interpretation to a skeleton force, and most of the resources are getting pumped into taking of tolls and law enforcement. The number of rangers out there interacting with the public is steadily shrinking.

Fran Mainella In 2005, we had the biggest increase in operations in the NPS’s 88-year history. Before that, we had gone 10 years where salaries and fixed costs weren’t fully covered.

Mark Udall In tight times, we’ve mortgaged some of the future. With decisions we’ve made about defense budgets, tax cuts, and other priorities, the parks are de facto targets.

Robert Arnberger The parks are tremendously underfunded. You can call up any superintendent, and they’ll tell you their funding is 50 to 60 percent less than they need. The attention the parks have received from Congress has lacked the commitment and sustainable consistency that they require. You can’t throw money at something for a couple of years and then walk away from it for a decade.

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