National Park Service Retirees Applaud Bill to Wipe Out $6 Billion Park Maintenance Backlog by 100th Anniversary of NPS Nat'l Park Centennial Act of 2004 Also Would Fully Fund

Core Operations of National Parks



    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.

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