NPCA Reserves Judgement on Gale Norton; Awaits Hearing

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   January 12, 2001
Contact:   Ron Tipton, 202-223-6722, ext. 266


NPCA Reserves Judgement on Gale Norton; Awaits Hearing

Washington - Despite our significant concerns about her record, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) hopes that Gale Norton will follow through on both the letter and the spirit of President-elect George W. Bush's September 2000 statement that "the National Park Service's mission to protect natural resources and wildlife must be strengthened." This declaration was part of an important pledge that President-elect Bush made to increase park funding by $4.9 billion over the next five years in an effort to improve park protection and maintenance, such as the protection of cultural resources, endangered species, and other wildlife.

As Interior secretary, Ms. Norton will be responsible for making good on President-elect Bush's pledge to increase park funding greatly. "Sufficient funds must go to protecting park natural and cultural resources and not just to roads and buildings that, while needed, have received the lion's share of park funding so far," says Thomas Kiernan, NPCA president.

Analyses by NPCA, the National Park Service, and more than 50 graduate students from the leading U.S. business and policy schools show that park operating budgets need to be increased most for programs that protect the plants, animals, and historic objects that were the impetus for park creation. Ms. Norton has the opportunity during her hearings to affirm her commitment to protecting the parks and to funding that protection.

NPCA remains strongly concerned about the position Ms. Norton will take on snowmobile and Jet Skis bans in national parks, on development in Alaska national parks, and on continuing National Park Service efforts to increase ethnic and cultural diversity among park visitors and staff. "How Ms. Norton responds at her confirmation hearings to questions about her intentions for improved park protection and for using parks to help unite this country will shape our assessment of her leadership potential," Kiernan says. "It would be presumptuous at present to label Norton as anti-park. However, we can say that while her history on wider environmental issues gives us profound concern, she has the opportunity to lead on national park issues."

If she does not exceed the low expectations that her record has created, she will engender NPCA opposition to her confirmation. But for the benefit of our national parks, we hope she will rise to the challenge of uniting all Americans in the goal of protecting our parks for present and future generations.

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