National Parks Magazine Examines Homeland Security Impact on Parks

Date:   September 5, 2006

 Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332

National Parks Magazine Examines Homeland Security Impact on Parks

New Fall Issue Says Security Strains Park Budgets, Alters Experiences of Park Visitors

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The new issue of National Parks magazine on newsstands this month takes a close look at the impact of homeland security on the nation’s parklands over the past five years, and says that greater demands are straining park resources and greater security is affecting the experiences of visitors.

“We found that homeland security is not only straining the National Park Service’s budget,” said National Parks magazine Editor Scott Kirkwood, “but also changing the way Americans experience their national parks.”

The National Parks magazine article, “The Changing of the Guard,” highlights the National Park Service’s challenges and expense securing parks along U.S. borders, and says that security measures at icon parks such those on the National Mall have limited visitor access: “Parking is restricted, and security barriers and construction fences interrupt scenic vistas.” The article also notes, “visitors to the Statue of Liberty go through a screening process more elaborate than most airports.”

The Department of Homeland Security has identified several sites within the National Park System as potential terrorist targets for their symbolic value, including Mount Rushmore, the Washington Monument, and the St. Louis Arch, and the Park Service has tightened security accordingly.

Last month, the Park Service announced that for security reasons, the crown of the State of Liberty would be permanently closed to visitors and proposed bisecting Independence Square in Philadelphia—where Independence Hall is located—with a 7-foot fence.

National Parks cites Park Service officials, whom have stated that homeland security duties and equipment cost the agency approximately $43 million annually.

These costs have been incurred while the Park Service is already operating with an annual shortfall in excess of $600 million annually, and at this time, the Park Service is not eligible for reimbursement from the Department of Homeland Security.

The article did not address public opinion about increased security in parks, but in a 2006 poll conducted by Zogby International on behalf of NPCA, 75 percent of likely voters said that they support the National Park Service being reimbursed for homeland and border security activities that rangers have to conduct in national parks.

“The Park Service’s important homeland security duties should be recognized and reimbursed accordingly,” said National Parks Conservation Association Vice President for Government Affairs Craig Obey.

In April 2006, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) to the Senate immigration bill, which would begin to focus needed attention on the impact that border and homeland security demands are having on America’s National Park System.

Zogby International conducted interviews of 1,007 likely voters chosen at random nationwide. All calls were made from Zogby International headquarters in Utica, N.Y., from 3/14/06 thru 3/16/06. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points.

National Parks magazine is a quarterly publication of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.

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