Loosing Our National Parks
Image: by D L Ennis, The Blue Ridge Mountains
The Bush Administration has not been kind to our National Parks and the environment and it keeps getting worse.
Knight Ridder news services, in recent stories, have been reporting that the Bush Administration thinks our national parks are too fat. A directive called the “core operation analysis” has been issued directing park officials across the country to cut between 20 and 30 percent of their operating budget while maintaining the parks’ core mission of resource protection and visitor enjoyment. Many parks have already begun to implement cuts and all parks are supposed to be in compliance by 2011.
This from Smoky Mountain News.com:
“While the National Park Service officially says that meeting the core operation analysis will not impact visitor enjoyment or resource protection, cuts that have been implemented to date do not bear that out. According to a Government Accountability Office report, parks had already initiated service cuts before the core operation analysis began. As early as 2004 the Great Smoky Mountains National Park cut interpretive programs by 25 percent and replaced seven seasonal technicians with student volunteers. A March 2004 report by the National Parks Conservation Association noted that the number of permanent park rangers had dropped by more than 16 percent since 1980 and the number of seasonal employees had fallen by more than 23 percent.”
As a presidential candidate, George W. Bush pledged to increase our national parks budgets in 2000 and 2004. And park superintendents were urged to talk about these types of cuts as “service level adjustments.”
Now President Bush’ proposal is to cut more than $100 million from next year’s national parks’ budgets, and according to internal documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the administration is urging superintendents to be “honest and forthright” with the public regarding smaller budgets, reduced visitor services and increased fees. According to the documents, shortfalls for essential operations would be made up for with fee hikes, cost shifting and increased reliance on volunteers.
Image right: from the Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
In a thoughtful editorial in the April 19 Asheville Citizens-Times, Houch Medford, executive director of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, discusses some of these impacts and talks about park funding in general. I think the first paragraph of Medford’s piece is quite telling: “Park philanthropies have traditionally provided the National Park Service with funds that provide a margin of excellence, but continued federal under funding could force them to provide a margin of survival. This is unfair to the donor who has made a good faith contribution with the expectation that their gift will support the ‘excellence’ factor. This arrangement could even potentially establish a form of double taxation: a donor pays for parks once via the IRS, and the second time via a charitable gift to compensate, unwittingly, for a park operations offset.”
Groups like the Friends and the Parkway Foundation and others should be the icing on the cake. The heavy lifting should be up to Congress. Recent attempts to sell off public lands, efforts towards privatization of services and increased vendors in our national parks, and now the core operation analysis all portray an administration that views our national forests and national parks as a burden on the ‘bottom line’ rather than treasures to be preserved, protected and enhanced for future generations.
Also read my article, Give Them an Inch – NPS and Corporate Logos
Note: This article has been amended by me, D L Ennis, from its original version on 4/29/06 at 9:54 AM. It was pointed out to me by one of our writers that my political view and my attacks on Mr. Bush were not in keeping with our Mission Statement; said writer was right!
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