Press Release Apr 8, 2024

National Park Advocates Challenge Congress to Protect American History

NPCA’s latest report reveals the National Park Service needs $250 million in new funding to hire more historians and safeguard cultural resources.

WASHINGTON – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association released a new report calling on Congress to provide $250 million for long-underfunded cultural resources and history programs at America’s national parks.

This new report, entitled “A Cultural Resource Challenge for the National Park Service,” outlines startling findings about the National Park Service’s inability to properly fund and staff national parks dedicated primarily or partially to cultural resources. Data reveals a severe lack of historians, archivists, and other key staff the agency needs to fulfill its mandate under the Organic Act. Out of the more than 20,000 staff at America’s national parks, only 138 are full-time historians.


Challenge Congress to Provide $250 Million for History and Culture at our National Parks

History is at the heart of our national parks. Many national parks preserve stories of a battles, turning points, triumphs, and tragedies, or simply the lives of ordinary Americans. Since…

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These 138 historians are tasked with the herculean effort of helping manage more than 26,000 historic structures, and nearly 185 million historic artifacts in the National Park Service’s possession. Since 2011, there has been a 25% decrease in historians employed by the Park Service. In the wake of these cuts, rangers who may not be trained as historians are being asked to perform expert-level work as “collateral duties,” in addition to their many other responsibilities.

These findings cast serious doubts about whether the National Park Service has sufficient funds to play a leading role in celebrating America’s 250th birthday in 2026, an occasion that will no doubt require significant staff and resources.

Other findings include key information about the threat that climate change poses to America’s national parks dedicated to history and culture. Without new funding to properly study the potential impacts of climate change on America’s historic sites, thousands of historic buildings, monuments, and priceless pieces of history could be lost to fire, flood, and other climate-related events.

“Through no fault of their own, the National Park Service has been forced to steward historic sites with less funding for decades, leading to a crisis over truly preserving cultural resources at our national parks,” said Alan Spears, Senior Director of Cultural Resources for the National Parks Conservation Association.

“Dwindling budgets have backed the Park Service into a corner, and as a result, we have seen a notable decline in historians, archivists, and other key cultural resources experts on staff at national parks. That’s troubling news, given two-thirds of America’s more than 420 national park sites are dedicated primarily to history and cultural resources.” Spears added.

“The National Park Service is one of America’s greatest storytellers. From Minute Man National Historical Park, where the shot heard around the world marked the birth of the American Revolution, to Freedom Riders National Monument, where Americans put their lives on the line in pursuit of racial equality, our historical parks are the beating heart of our country. They simply deserve better.” Spears continued.

“That is why, in honor of the upcoming 250th anniversary of our nation’s founding, we are calling on Congress to allocate $250 million dollars to the National Park Service and give America’s history a fighting chance.” Spears finished.

According to the National Park Service’s Organic Act of 1916, its founding legislation, the agency “shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein…”

Fifty years later, the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act formally tasked the National Park Service with managing the majority of the country’s legislative preservation mandates.


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

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