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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.


Suzanne Lewis Yes. We are in the business of parks.

Gale Norton I think they should. They need to have a more focused approach so that money is spent in the best possible way. We’re working now on helping parks evaluate their mission and how their budget helps forward that mission. New analysis methods are helping the parks look at things like sharing employees or resources. In the past, we used a silo approach: If they needed an archaeologist, they needed one on staff in that park. Our other agencies, like the BLM, never had budgets as large as the NPS’s, so they’ve learned to share employees. I think there are opportunities to do that within the park service.

Scott Silver Some people say money is the big issue. That’s wrong. Some people in the NPS have a fixation with Disneyland. They would like to see our parks as efficient in providing mass entertainment as Disney is. They think that bringing a business model and sponsorship to the park is good because they need dollars. We’ll destroy the parks totally by doing that.

Fran Mainella We have to operate in a more businesslike way. Part of decision-making is showing “If you give me X dollars, I’m going to remove Y acres of invasive species.”

Greg Miller The national parks will never pay for themselves. If you try to do that, you put unacceptable tradeoffs in front of managers. They won’t be managing for conservation and sustainable recreation activities; they’ll be managing to make their budgets and to maintain an infrastructure.

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