National Parks Threats Yield Political Watch List

Date:   March 13, 2003
Contact:   Roger DiSilvestro, NPCA, 202-454-3335

National Parks Threats Yield Political Watch List

Washington, D.C. - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today released a "National Parks Watch List for 2003" that calls attention to upcoming decisions by the Bush administration and Congress that will harm the health, integrity, and future of America's National Park System. The Watch List also outlines potential solutions.
"Because we have observed a disturbing trend of political actions and inactions that jeopardize national parks, we have created this 2003 Watch List to describe the most far-reaching threats to the parks," Thomas Kiernan, NPCA president, said. "The decisions by this administration in the last several months are damaging to the national parks. If this continues through the year, the administration will have created a disastrous legacy in managing our national treasures."
Among the key threats outlined in the Watch List are:

  • Air Quality in the National Parks: Some of the nation's most polluted air is found in national parks. Administration actions will allow outdated coal-fired plants to avoid cleaning up, leading to worsening air quality in our parks. In addition, the administration's so-called "Clear Skies Initiative," as drafted, is less protective of park air than full enforcement of the current law.

  • National Park Land Giveaways: A recently issued Department of Interior rule allows the Bureau of Land Management, without public comment or a review of conservation impacts, to give away land in national parks along rights-of-way claimed by state and local governments and other parties. This action could cover some parks with a spider web of paved roads or off-road vehicle trails.

  • Accelerated Oil and Gas Leasing In and Near Park Units: The Bush administration is stepping up leasing of oil and gas rights both inside national park units and next to them, a threat to ecosystems, wildlife, and archeological remains that will significantly increase pollution in and near national parks. Parks at risk include Padre Island National Seashore (TX), Arches National Park, (UT), Canyonlands National Park (UT), Grand Teton National Park (WY), Glacier National Park (MT), and Channel Islands National Park (CA).

  • Privatizing the National Park Service: The administration's recent step toward privatizing 70 percent of National Park Service jobs is disturbing. Forcing the National Park Service to adhere to top-down privatization mandates could be disastrous for our national parks.

"The Bush administration is failing its responsibility for providing Americans with safe, healthy national parks," Kiernan said. "National parks are a part of every American's heritage. The administration has begun to roll back the years of progress that have been made in protecting parks and their surrounding environments. President Bush promised stepped-up protection for parks during his campaign. So far, he has done more to exploit the parks than to heal them."

Other threats included on the Watch List are a Bush administration proposal to reverse a Park Service phase out of snowmobile use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks; possible congressional action that would authorize snowmobiling in the wilderness core of Denali National Park, where it has always been off-limits; the administration's failure so far to keep the president's campaign pledge to provide an additional $4.9 billion in the Park Service budget to eliminate a backlog of national park infrastructure projects; and legislation introduced with administration support during the last Congress, and already reintroduced this year, that would treat national parks as the special property of local interests rather than as national domain.
"NPCA research shows that the Park Service gets only two-thirds of the funding needed to maintain national parks properly—an annual shortfall of more than $600 million," Kiernan said. "The administration's failure to keep the president's pledge on park funding is a key problem that leaves many parks unable to carry out their mission adequately. They are ill equipped to confront threats such as habitat destruction and dwindling wildlife populations and unable to serve satisfactorily the countless visitors and thousands of schoolchildren who request educational opportunities. Taken together, the upcoming decisions and actions outlined on NPCA's 2003 Watch List spell hope or decline for our national parks. Unfortunately, without a change of direction, the administration's actions point toward decline."


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