WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 360 former non-political career National Park Service (NPS) employees with well over 10,000 years of cumulative park management experience today saluted members of Congress for introducing H.R. 5358, the "National Park Centennial Act of 2004," which seeks "to eliminate the annual operating deficit and (more than $6 billion) maintenance backlog in the national parks ... " by the time of the NPS centennial in 2016. The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) expressed its pleasure at seeing that its September 21, 2004 "call for action" blueprint for America's national parks is having a real impact on the thinking of the members of Congress. In particular, CNPSR spokesperson Bill Wade expressed thanks to the chairs of the Congressional National Park Caucus -- Rep. Norm Souder and Rep. Brian Baird. The retirees also saluted the other sponsors of the bill: Rep. Ehlers; Rep. Grijalva; Rep. Gordon; Rep. Case; Rep. Rodriguez; Rep. McInnis; Rep. Boehlert; Rep. Van Hollen; Rep. Capito; Rep. Hoeffel; Rep. McCollum; Rep. Snyder; Rep. Udall; Rep. Kildee; Rep. Markey; Rep. Ros-Lehtinen; Rep. Neal of Massachusetts; Rep. Bordallo; and Rep. Michaud. Wade said: "Those of us who have devoted our professional lives to the national parks and the people who use them have been pushing for increased operational funding for the parks and for the elimination of the multi- billion-dollar backlog. Our members have contacted dozens of Congressmen and Senators to encourage them to look at innovative ways to eliminate the backlog, including the income tax check-off in the new bill. It is particularly appropriate that the bill's target for eliminating the annual operating deficit and the maintenance backlog is the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service." "Characterized as 'the best idea America ever had,' the national parks have been until very recently a shining example to the world of how to preserve a nation's heritage," Wade said. "The failure in the last few years to fully fund the system and attempts to privatize what should be entirely owned and managed by the public have tarnished this example and threatens to subject the system to the risk and failure not uncommon to the private sector." As the preamble to H.R. 5358 explains: "Without providing the Park Service the resources necessary to operate and maintain our national parks, future generations will receive diminished visitor services, will experience a continually weakening system that is less and less able to fulfill its mission, and will inherit a national park system than has been left to them in worse condition that it was left to their ancestors. The annual appropriations process has proved incapable of fully addressing the debilitating funding shortfalls of the national parks, making it necessary to supplement what the appropriations process is able to accomplish. It is necessary to ensure that fiscal resources devoted to the national parks are spent wisely and effectively, making strong congressional oversight over annual appropriations extremely important." On September 21, 2004, the Coalition unveiled an extensive "call for action" blueprint to overhaul the management of America's national parks over the next 12 years leading up to the National Park Service's 100th anniversary in 2016. Among the key steps outlined in the ambitious plan are an immediate $600 million annual infusion of additional funds to get national parks back on track and the creation of the "National Parks Restoration and Conservation Corps" (NPRCC), a large public works project patterned on the Great Depression's Civilian Conservation Corps. The NPRCC would focus on erasing the national park's chronic maintenance backlog crisis now estimated at over $6 billion. Entitled "A Call to Action: Saving our National Park System," the action plan put forth by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (http://www.npsretirees.org) is based on a several-month review of the issues that have confronted the national park system in the recent decades. The CNPSR report reflects a clear, consensus view among former NPS leaders that there needs to be major changes in the processes and structures governing the management of the National Park Service to meet its core mission: the protection and preservation of the 388 areas of the national park system in perpetuity. ABOUT THE COALITION The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees consists of over 360 former non-political career employees of the National Park Service. Many Coalition members were senior NPS leaders who received awards for stewardship of America's top natural and cultural resources. The Coalition ranks include five former directors and deputy Directors of the National Park Service; 19 former regional directors or deputy regional directors; 38 former associate or assistant directors at the national or regional level; 53 former division chiefs at the national or regional level; and 95 former park superintendents or assistant superintendents. The Coalition describes its mission as follows: "We will speak and act for the protection of America's national parks and for the enjoyment of them that does not impair their resources nor their intended values and purposes." Wade said, "We know that many more of our former National Park Service colleagues, who have served under several different Administrations, both Republican and Democratic, agree with our concerns. We have served this country well, and our credibility and integrity in speaking out on these issues should not go ignored. Never before in the 88 year history of the National Park Service have so many retired employees come together to voice concern about threats to the Service and system to which they devoted their professional careers."
SOURCE Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Washington, D.C.