Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Preserves National Heritage, but Lacks Funding to Discover New Parklands

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   September 14, 2006
Contact:  

Sean Smith, NPCA Northwest Regional Director, 206.903.1444, ext. 21



Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Preserves National Heritage, but Lacks Funding to Discover New Parklands

New Study Finds Recent Park Expansion Requires More Funding and Staffing

Seattle, WA – A new study released today by the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) Center for the State of the Parks, indicates that the recent expansion of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park helps to protect historic lands, but requires additional staff and funding to manage new parklands.  The study finds that more resources are needed to conduct research, explore cultural landscapes, and provide adequate storage for the growing museum collection that preserves the treasures Lewis and Clark encountered 200 years ago. 

“The recent expansion of the park and support from our congressional leaders represents a strong commitment to preserving the historic lands associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition,” said NPCA’s Northwest Regional Director Sean Smith.  “However, funding shortfalls limit the park’s ability to discover new resources as well as adequately protect parklands.”

In August, Senator Ron Wyden (OR), the National Park Service, and local environmental groups announced the addition of 81 acres of forest and wetlands to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.  This combined effort and acquisition is part of a broader initiative to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the Lower Columbia region.  Recently, legislation was introduced to study the establishment of a National Heritage Area for lands along the Columbia River. 

The park now encompasses more than 3,000 acres, offering an important opportunity for staff to study and interpret important historic landscapes relating to the Lewis and Clark expedition.  For example, the exact location of the original Fort Clatsop site is still unknown and many artifacts dating from the 19th century have been unearthed. 

According to NPCA’s new assessment, funding and staffing shortfalls prohibit park staff from efficiently documenting and protecting archaeological resources unearthed as the park expands.  Though the park’s museum collection storage area and research library were rehabilitated recently, as the number of museum and archival objects grows, increased storage space will likely be needed to adequately provide access, protect, and interpret those objects.

The park’s 1995 General Management Plan identified the need for eight additional resource positions to adequately manage the park’s additional lands, but a new assessment is needed to account for increased management responsibilities that have come as a result of the recent park growth.  Immediate staffing needs include a full-time cultural resource program manager and a natural resource program manager to help the park research, evaluate, and protect historic sites such as Fort Clatsop and Station Camp.

“Our national parks face enormous challenges, including an annual operating shortfall in excess of $600 million,” said Smith.  “NPCA’s new assessment provides an important reminder that our parks need full funding to preserve the places that capture America’s heritage.”

Additional funding is also needed to complete cultural resource studies, including a special history study of the lower Columbia region.  This study would provide insight to the exploration of the Columbia River, American Indian land use and occupation, and early commercial enterprises such as the fur trade, logging, shipping, and fishing.

In November 2004, Congress passed the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Designation Act to preserve the cultural and natural resources associated with the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery on the Lower Columbia River.  The act redesignated Fort Clatsop National Memorial as Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and provided for the inclusion of three additional sites in Washington State. The park preserves and protects sites on the Lower Columbia River that are nationally significant to the Lewis and Clark story.

NPCA launched the landmark Center for the State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country.  The new report, National Parks Along the Lewis and Clark Trail, assesses the cultural and natural resources at six national parks associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition.  To view a copy of the full report, visit http://www.npca.org/stateoftheparks/lewis_clark_trail/.

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