|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||April 6, 2006|
Joy Oakes, Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-329-6815
Unfunded Homeland Security Demands at Catoctin Mountain Park Impact Visitor Experiences, Resources
New Report Says Funding and Staffing Shortfalls Strain Cultural Heritage
According to a new report released today by the National Parks Conservation Association? (NPCA) Center for the State of the Parks, an assessment of Catoctin Mountain Park indicates that an increase in unfunded homeland security and law enforcement duties has strained the park? ability to protect its cultural treasures and ensure that visitors have a good experience in the park. NPCA is advocating that the National Park Service be reimbursed for its expense.
Unfunded homeland security demands have strained park budgets and staff, and affected the experience of visitors at many parks, including Catoctin,?said NPCA? Regional Director Joy Oakes. ?he parks should be reimbursed for these expenses so that cultural resources and visitor services don? suffer.?p>
In response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, homeland security and law enforcement duties have increased at many parks, including Catoctin, which is home to the presidential retreat. Despite the best efforts of park staff, they have less time and fewer resources to manage the natural and cultural treasures in the park and educate visitors.
Funding for law enforcement personnel and equipment in most parks is included as part of the operating budget, which research has shown to be short by more than $600 million annually. NPCA is advocating for Congress and the administration to increase funding to the parks?operating budget, and make the parks eligible for reimbursement funding from the Department of Homeland Security.
According to a March 2006 poll of 1,007 likely voters by Zogby International, 75 percent of respondents say they support the Park Service being reimbursed for homeland and border security activities the agency has had to conduct.
Catoctin Mountain Park currently has nine fewer staff positions than it did five years ago. Park staff often work double-duty, conducting their interpretive or resource protection work, but also performing law enforcement duties. For example, the park? museum curator also has law enforcement duties, which limits the amount of time that can be spent working with the museum collection. Historic letters exchanged during the New Deal period, photographs of presidential visits, and artifacts used for charcoaling during the period of rural industry and agriculture are not yet cataloged for park visitors to enjoy.
Visitors could better experience Catoctin? fascinating history of charcoal production, iron furnaces, and presidential visits if the park could afford to hire an educational specialist,?said Oakes.
Additional staff and funding are also needed to pursue effective treatments for diseases attacking park plants, such as dogwood anthracnose, to stem outbreaks and prevent further destruction of dogwood trees throughout the eastern United States.
This report reinforces the need to provide adequate funding to address the critical shortfall in our national park operations budget,?said Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD). ?here is an estimated $600 million annual shortfall and until we provide the resources to address staffing and infrastructure needs and improvements, the 390-unit national park system and visitor services will continue to suffer as evidenced by this report on the needs at Catoctin Mountain Park.?p>
Catoctin provides opportunities for visitors to enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, and other recreational activities that boost the region? economy. As reported in NPCA? assessment, in 2003, nearly a million visitors are conservatively estimated to have generated $27.57 million and supported over 680 jobs locally.
Located about 60 miles from both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Catoctin Mountain Park is home to more than 1,000 native plant and animal species. Most of the park? historic structures, including rustic cabins and camping areas, are still used by visitors and staff. The park has hosted U.S. presidents since the 1940s and is home to the presidential retreat Camp David.
NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country.
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