Executive Summary of The National Parks System Plan: A Blueprint for Tomorrow
In the beginning, the national park idea was an American dream. Early park visionaries carved out of the western wilds places of wonder and visual power-Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mount Rainier. Since then, we have added over 300 units to the family of parks, each preserving a fragment of our natural or cultural heritage. Moreover, 120 other nations have adopted this American dream as their own.
Many would say that we’ve done enough. But the national park system is not a numbers game, nor will it ever be complete. Quality and condition of the resources are imperatives. The system must have both a commitment to set aside the places, and the dedication to protect them in perpetuity.
This National Park System Plan is the first effort to guide the future of the national park dream. We are concerned with the number and quality of the sites, with the people of the Service, with the threats to the existing and future units of the system, ang with the system’s responsibility to and relationship with the American people.
Why should National Parks and Conservation Association formulate the Plan? Over the years, NPCA has both developed a close working relationship with the NPS, and maintained an independent ability to critique or defend, as needed. Based on this relationship, and because NPCA is free of political constraints, we can approach the needs of the national park system with an informed, but objective, eye.
The production of this Plan was necessary in order to express NPCA’s concern that establishment of a great national park system does not guarantee that it will remain great forever. If the system is to survive, it will be as a result of the collective actions of many citizens, and the actions of their elected representatives in the White House and the Congress.
Therefore the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Association took up the task of looking at the mission of the system and the Service, breaking it into its essential elements, inventorying the resources, analyzing where we are versus where we want to be, and laying out objectives for the future. The process included intensive interviews, meetings, and workshops with Park Service employees, scholars, and citizen advocates. Those involved represent hundreds of years of experience with the parks.
It is important to understand the assumptions used for the Plan-that there would be no catastrophic change in our nation’s economy, governmental system, or environment. Further, this Plan analyzes and bases its recommendations on the traditional methods proven successful by the National Park Service for preservation with compatible use of the parks, acquisition of the land when authorized by Congress, direct management of the resources and visitors, and education of the public.
In addition to these proven methods, we recognize that for the future, in order for the necessary elements of our heritage now missing to be preserved, new methods will be employed. In general, we leave any detailed discussion of these new approaches to future efforts. Thus, the Plan does not treat such emerging concepts as greenline parks, greenways, international biosphere reserves, or national landmark parks, nor does it detail the important role of the existing state or regional parks, federal wilderness areas, or properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
Finally, the Plan does not include strategies for implementation, which we and other park advocates will subsequently fashion from priorities and opportunities based on an examination of allies and resources. Suffice it to say that the Association, its Board of Trustees and its entire staff, from this point forward, are dedicated to implementation of this Plan’s recommendations. We know we can count on others for support. We believe that implementing the Plan will assure future generations of Americans the unmatched opportunities for enjoyment which my children and I, and you and yours, find today in America’s national park system.