Administration Earns D- on National Parks

Date:   June 11, 2003
Contact:   Andrea Keller, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3332

Administration Earns D- on National Parks

Washington, D.C. - The Bush administration received a D- today in a report card issued by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) for failing to meet its often repeated pledge to "restore and renew" the national parks. Among the leading reasons for the very low grade, as cited in a detailed, fact-based assessment, is the administration's pervasive pattern of damaging national park policies over the past two and a half years, including actions to roll back the Clean Air Act and an aggressive push from Washington to outsource up to 70 percent of all positions in the already understaffed National Park Service.

"The president made strong commitments to the American people about protecting our national parks, and the administration has failed to keep them to date," said NPCA President Thomas Kiernan. "Our national parks have become a victim of the administration's policies that exploit parklands for the benefit of special interests."

The NPCA report card grades the administration on five broad categories: protection of resources such as air quality and wildlife; visitor experience; funding; park administration and management; and growth of the park system. It also grades the administration's actions affecting individual parks, such as the move to permit construction of a new coal-fired power plant outside of Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky-an action that disregards Park Service studies about the harmful effects of power plant pollution on the park, already one of America's five most polluted.

"There is time for the administration to earn a better grade by improving its policies on our national parks," Kiernan said. "Until then, the 300 million people who visit the parks annually will not have the experiences they deserve."

Two years ago, NPCA gave the administration a D for its record on national parks. Although the current report card recognizes several significant accomplishments, NPCA's 30-page assessment reveals several alarming administration initiatives. Among the most harmful is the new scheme to privatize nearly 2,000 positions in the national parks by next summer, including archaeologists, biologists, and maintenance workers. This top-down action poses a serious threat to park protection, the experiences of visitors, and the diversity of the Park Service workforce. To the delight of private developers, the administration has reinvigorated a provision in the 1866 Mining Act that could allow county and state governments to claim streambeds and wagon ruts as routes for unnecessary new roads in Mojave National Preserve, Dinosaur National Monument, and other parks.

In addition, the administration has fallen far short of its pledge to eliminate the backlog of maintenance projects in our national parks and yet persists in touting the pledge without allocating significant new funds. And at the urging of snowmobile manufacturers, the administration continues to allow noisy, polluting snowmobiles to operate in Yellowstone and Grant Teton national parks and has increased daily limits.

The NPCA assessment outlines actions the administration can take to improve its grade, such as fully funding the national parks, strengthening clean air protections, eliminating the loophole allowing new road claims, enforcing the snowmobile ban at Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and exempting the Park Service from the new privatization initiative.


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