Commission Recommends Sweeping Expansion of the National Park "Idea"

Date:   September 24, 2009
Contact:   Mike Bento, NPSCC, 202.291.3117
Shannon Andrea, NPCA, 202.454.3371

Commission Recommends Sweeping Expansion of the National Park "Idea"

Final report offers recommendations for enhancing the National Park System and the ability of the Park Service to engage the diversity of America

Washington, D.C. – The independent, bipartisan National Parks Second Century Commission today concluded a year-long analysis with the release of a visionary report calling for dramatic enhancements to the National Park System, and the National Park Service’s ability to protect our breathtaking landscapes and historic and cultural treasures. Importantly, the Commission recommends that the agency provide meaningful new opportunities for all Americans—especially young people and diverse communities—to become connected with our shared national heritage, and involved to protect it.

Chaired by former Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Jr. (R-TN) and former Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. (D-LA), the National Parks Second Century Commission is a first-in-a-generation effort to examine the national parks today, and chart a vision for the parks’ second century of service to the nation. The Commission consists of 26 national leaders and experts with a broad range of diverse experience, including scientists, historians, conservationists, academics, business leaders, policy experts, and retired Park Service executives.

“At some of the most difficult times in American history, presidents and Congress have had the courage and foresight to protect our national heritage, and expand the ability of national parks to benefit all Americans. This is another of those moments,” said Senator Baker.  

“The national parks truly are America’s Best Idea, and these recommendations will make the national parks even more central to the lives of all Americans,” said Senator Johnston. 

First, the Commission recommends expansion of the National Park Idea by enhancing educational opportunities within the park system and community conservation and local partnerships to preserve our national heritage. Specifically, the Commission called for an expansion of the National Park Service’s mission, making education an explicit part of the mission for the first time. The report also recommends expanding the park system itself to protect segments of all of America’s ecological and cultural treasures and to represent the diversity of our changing nation. 

The Commission also called for a sweeping revitalization of the National Park Service, including strengthening the management, research, and community assistance capacity of the agency, along with significant steps for the Park Service to become a more innovative, diverse, and responsive organization prepared for the expanded vision of the system.  

The Commission recommended actions to preserve America’s natural and cultural resources by strengthening the Park Service’s capacity to preserve park resources through expansion of its ability to prevent other federal agency actions that would adversely impact parks. The report also identifies enhancements to Park Service authorities, budgets, and programs that provide the leverage to work cooperatively with local communities and stakeholders to preserve parks and surrounding landscapes.

And, recognizing the importance of funding for the system, the Commission’s final report includes recommendations for Congress and the Administration to fully fund park needs through existing federal programs that benefit the Park Service, and offered proposals for enhanced permanent and sustainable funding from public and private sources. A key recommendation is the creation of a Presidentially-appointed commission to promote the importance of the parks and raise substantial private funds by the 2016 centennial of the Park Service.
At a phone-in press conference today, the Commission presented its report to the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. The full report includes detailed recommendations to the White House and Congress.  Click here for extensive reports from the seven committees of the Commission.

The National Parks Second Century Commission first met in August 2008 at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California, and in October at Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts. In January 2009 the Commission met at Yellowstone National Park, followed in March with a meeting at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and in June at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. The Commission heard from a wide range of subject matter experts, park managers, and the general public over the course of its 12-month effort, culminating in this report which will be shared with the Congress, the Administration, park advocates, stakeholders, and the American people. 

The Commission was convened by the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association, the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. The Commission’s report was endorsed today by the Trust for Public Land, Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees, and other organizations.



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