This past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the National Park Service’s Call to Action report, and a new opportunity to revisit the goals and policies guiding our national parks just four years shy of their centennial in 2016.
What is the Call to Action? Last year, on the 95th birthday of the founding of the National Park Service, the agency celebrated its own birthday in a unique way. At an event staged at the historic Ford’s Theater in Washington, NPS released a report titled A Call to Action: Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement.
This report was written by the Park Service as a guide for the future of the agency, but also includes an invitation to its partners to commit to actions to move forward towards a shared vision for the parks for 2016 and the second century. Its central stated goal is that NPS “must recommit to the exemplary stewardship and public enjoyment of these places.” The vision for a “second century” Park Service (drawing on the work of the Second Century Commission) is that it will:
- Connect a broader and more diverse audience to the parks to better provide communities with places that protect their natural and cultural heritage;
- Advance the educational mission of the Park Service by strengthening its role in learning and interpretation for the benefit of all of our people from early childhood to seniors;
- Preserve natural and cultural landscapes using the best science, planning, and management practices; and
- Enhance its professional and organizational excellence by recruiting a more diverse and effective workforce that is fully capable of leading change and working with partners through greater innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.
Park Service Director Jon Jarvis made it clear last year the agency intended to review its progress towards these goals annually and revise the Call to Action each August through 2016. NPCA applauds the Park Service for committing to a meaningful 2016 agenda. Their revisions to this important document, however, were quite modest.
Last summer, NPCA released The State of America’s National Parks, a comprehensive report, outlining the most significant threats to the National Park System. The report identified important priorities to enforce air quality laws; reintroduce native wildlife; monitor and respond to the impacts of climate change; and address the current inadequate level of protection for historic buildings and artifacts.
Recognizing that our national parks face many challenges, NPCA believes there needs to be some significant additions to the Call to Action moving forward. These include:
- Expanding the “Scaling Up” initiative, which is intended to improve the ecological connectivity of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife and plants in the face of the growing impacts of climate change, energy development, and other threats.
- Drafting a service-wide comprehensive connectivity strategy that prioritizes ecosystem protection across the system so that landscape conservation can be addressed to the greatest degree possible.
- Transferring unrestricted funds annually to begin to fund the second century national park endowment NPS and we believe is necessary for long-term sustainable funding for the park system.
From Acadia to Gettysburg and Yellowstone, the National Park System contains some of our most historically significant sites as well as some of the last wild lands of America. They provide some of the very best wildlife viewing experiences in the country. Visitors can see grizzlies, bison, and mountain goats in the wild; and can experience the historic migration of caribou or pronghorn and see lynx, wolves, and other animals in their native habitat.
The Park Service is on the right path; now we need to build on the Call to Action to protect our parks for all Americans to enjoy in their second century and beyond.