Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are National Park Resources being Mismanaged?

I think most would agree that our National Parks are woefully under-funded. From the backlog of maintenance projects for trails, park facilities and historical structures, to declining resources for ranger and educational programs, scientific studies, and even the hiring of new park rangers, it’s obvious that there just isn’t enough money to go around.

Indeed, the National Parks Traveler recently reported that the National Park Service has a maintenance backlog in the neighborhood of $8 billion.

Moreover, according to National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan, out of a budget of approximately $2.3 billion, the Park Service has an annual operations shortfall of $600 million.

However, incongruously, every couple of weeks I come across a news report showing that the Federal Government has purchased a new tract of land to protect a viewshed along the Appalachian Trail or the Blue Ridge Parkway, or to protect headwaters on lands next to an existing National Park, or even to create an environmental buffer next to a park. I’m really only focused on what’s taking place in the Tennessee – North Carolina area, so I’m sure these federal land purchases are occurring with much more frequency when you consider the entire nation, especially in the western mountain states.

You might also note that the National Park Service recently added three new units to the system just in the last couple of months.

Now I’m learning that President Obama is considering using the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate 17 new National Monuments through a presidential proclamation. This would add more than 13 million acres to the management coffers of the National Park Service.

The recently published America's Great Outdoors Report also recommends that the administration "work with Congress to consider new congressional designations of or additions to wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national conservation system lands. Priority for federal support should be given to sites where strong local, regional and national support exists."

I have to ask - how can this be justified? How can the U.S. Government continue to purchase more land when they obviously can’t manage what they already own?

The Feds are effectively diverting funds from programs and park improvement projects in order to purchase more land. The end result is an even larger amount of total land mass that is under-funded and mismanaged. It all comes down to a question of quantity or quality. Do we want more and bigger parks, or is a better quality experience at existing parks more important?

Is anyone else alarmed by this?



Mike said...

Excellent commentary. They are already short on money, how will adding more land to the NPS help with their current budget woes?

In a time when individual states and the federal government should be tightening their belts, this type of addition to the NPS should be secondary to getting the 1.5 trillion budget deficit solved.

Anonymous said...

Another government cluster.

Anonymous said...

I am all for more land acquisition. The government needs to buy up buffer zones, and other areas, before condos and Wal-Marts move in and it is too late.

Anonymous said...

Buying land is the right thing to do—the long-term implications demand it. Hopefully operational and maintenance shortfalls will be rectified within a few years, as tax revenues increase with a more robust economy. Also, increasing user fees for maintenance and operations is probably more palatable to most people than using increased fees for land acquisition.

Anonymous said...


I respectfully disagree with you on this one.

There is no more powerful way to protect landscape than government acquisition.

The pressure of development is relentless -- think of where you grew up. I will bet anything that much of the forests and farms that you knew as a kid are now subdivisions. I have heard this same story from Maine to Florida, from Pennsylvania to California.

The land being acquired is just a drop in the bucket. The more the merrier is my best guest.

By the way, I am glad to see you back!!!! I really enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

Name me one area that the Federal gov't does well. Yeah, I can't think of one either. I know it sounds radical, but privatize the National Parks. Afterall, the gov't does not really care about preserving the land that it is acquiring. It is all a big land-grab. The Federal Gov't owns about 80% of the entire state of Utah. Why? Is there any real need for them to own this much land? Wake up Obama Zombies!