Bryce Canyon Weary at 82 Years

Date:   June 28, 2005
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, P: 202-454-3332

Bryce Canyon Weary at 82 Years

Washington, D.C. - A new report released today by the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) calls attention to a crippling $1.8 million annual shortfall at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, and warns against potentially harmful oil and gas drilling on adjacent lands.

“Bryce Canyon is looking a bit weary on its 82nd birthday,” said Jim Nations, vice president of NPCA’s State of the Parks® program. “The park’s cultural resources in particular, rated in poor shape, and could noticeably worsen unless Congress and the administration work together to address the park’s critical funding needs.”

According to NPCA’s new State of the Parks report, Bryce Canyon’s annual budget is short approximately $1.8 million of what is needed annually to adequately maintain popular trails, educate visitors, and protect and preserve 40,000 museum artifacts such as American Indian artifacts and historic furnishings, which have been damaged by rodents. NPCA rated the condition of Bryce Canyon’s cultural resources as “poor,” and raised concern about the few staff and limited funding devoted to the protection of such treasures. Some fire-supression systems are inadequate, and with recent outsourcing and staff reductions, fewer people are available to be part of the local fire brigade. NPCA also reports that the Park Service cannot afford to fill several critical staff positions at Bryce Canyon, including cultural resource experts, trail maintenance staff, and public educators.

NPCA’s new report also raises concern about the potential effects of new power plants and oil and gas drilling on the park’s air quality — now considered excellent — and the effect of potential coal-bed methane production nearby on the park’s water quality.

Grand Canyon Trust Executive Director Bill Hedden said, “The report highlights the need to evaluate the cumulative effect that all the proposed energy generation and extraction projects will have on regional air quality. Otherwise, haze may gradually obscure Bryce’s spectacular vistas and dark, starry nights.”

First proclaimed a national monument in June 1923, Bryce Canyon National Park today includes 35,835 acres of breathtaking spires, hoodoos, and windows carved by wind from colorful sedimentary rock. The park is home to more than 500 plant species and many bird and mammal species, and tells the stories of humans who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. The product of a yearlong analysis, Bryce Canyon National Park: A Resource Assessment, is the 20th NPCA State of the Parks report.

NPCA assessed the health of Canyonlands National Park in 2004; a State of the Parks report on the health of Zion National Park is forthcoming.


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