WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The 353-member Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees (CCNPSR) today publicly called on National Park Service (NPS) Director Fran Mainella to stop stonewalling the release of a major report that urges a more scientific approach to management of America's national parks. The report now being kept under wraps outlines steps for "reducing known shortcomings in past levels of NPS support for using science as a management tool" in order to "ensure the future of the nation's natural heritage that is reflected in the National Park System." According to CCNPSR, the report is being held hostage to the Bush Administration's campaign of ignoring science in order to clear the way for controversial steps -- such as opening up Yellowstone National Park to snowmobiles -- that violate the NPS mission of protecting the resources of the national park system. To prevent the Administration from continuing to bury the National Park System Advisory Board report, which is entitled "National Park Service Science in the 21st Century," CCNPSR released the full text of it today on the Web at http://www.npsretirees.org/documents/NPAdvisoryBoardScienceReport.pdf. On October 14, 2004, the retirees group petitioned NPS Director Mainella by letter to release the report. In the letter, CCNPSR Coordinator Bill Wade stated: "... it is difficult for the Coalition to understand why the report has not been officially released in the seven months since you received it. We understand that one or more members of the Board's Science Committee who authored the report have urged you to release it. We believe that the American public and especially the employees of the NPS deserve to see these recommendations." Wade's letter also states: "Current employees of the Department have told members of the Coalition that the Department is suppressing the report because Department political appointees, especially Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett, think that the report stresses too heavily the NPS resources protection responsibilities over all other responsibilities. If this is true, this is yet another example of the failure on the part of Interior's political appointees to understand the intent of the Congress as expressed in the laws that established the standards of care for the areas contained within the National Park System ... Please do not allow these recommendations to gather dust on a shelf in your office. Our natural heritage demands careful stewardship. These recommendations will help." The full text of the CCNPSR letter to Mainella is available online at http://www.npsretirees.org/04_1014-LtrMainellaScienceRecs.htm. The Advisory Board report is an outgrowth of the National Park Service's Natural Resource Challenge program, which was initiated in 1999 by Congress at the urgent request of the NPS to improve management and protection of natural resources in the National Park System. In addition to increasing the NPS's natural resource budget from about $100 million per year to $200 million per year, the Challenge includes a range of technical natural resource management strategies to provide improved science for parks. The Bush Administration expressed interest in continuing the Natural Resource Challenge when they came into leadership, although the funding requests to Congress from the administration have been less than conceived and have delayed the proposed completion date of the Challenge by several years. In May 2002, NPS Director Mainella asked her Advisory Board to review the Service's Natural Resources Challenge program and offer recommendations concerning future directions for science and scientific resource management in the national parks. On March 10, 2004, Advisory Board Chairman Douglas P. Wheeler transmitted the final report to Mainella. In doing so, Wheeler included the following statement: "This peer review of the concept, design, and implementation of the Challenge -- conducted by nationally and internationally recognized scientists -- concludes that the Challenge is a bold, innovative and successful program ... The board heartily endorses the Science Committee's far-reaching recommendations, which, if embraced and implemented will ensure the future of the nation's natural heritage that is reflected in the National Park System." Since receiving the report from the Board, there has been no release of the report to the public and no implementation of the Board's recommendations. Interior Department sources have told NPS retirees that the reason for stonewalling the report is that one or more political leaders in the DOI believe that the report emphasizes too heavily the NPS mission requirement of protecting resources at the expense of providing for controversial public access (such as snowmobiles in Yellowstone), the latter approach being much more heavily favored by the Bush Administration. Dr. Bruce Kilgore, regional chief scientist of the NPS's Pacific West Region from 1984 to 1997, said: "This report reaffirms the importance of science to maintaining the ecological integrity essential to sound resource management programs in the national parks. We must first understand how ecosystems work and then use that understanding to guide our actions. It strongly supports continuing the Natural Resource Challenge program and lays out a clear vision for further development of an effective science-based resource program. With the resource problems facing the parks today, it needs to be published as soon as possible and circulated widely!" Deny Galvin, former deputy director of the NPS under several administrations, said: "This report, prepared by a distinguished group of knowledgeable citizens, publicly appointed and convened, deserves widespread attention. Their conclusion is succinct: 'Mastering the science required to maintain ecological integrity is central to its (i.e. the National Park Service) ... mission.' Yet the Natural Resource Challenge remains at 65 percent of its target level in the sixth year of what was to be a five year program. Perhaps that is why these sensible recommendations have not been widely distributed or debated." Bob Barbee, former Superintendent of Yellowstone NP and Regional Director of the NPS's Alaska Region, said: "This report is well grounded and expresses with great clarity the significant next steps for our Service to take in its long path toward science-based, ecologically sound natural resource management--and attendant public education. It is a 'clarion call' to an enlightened future for our Service and its primary responsibility. I urge the Service and Department to formally embrace, with undue dispatch, these recommendations and integrate them in the Service management policies and operational directives." ABOUT THE COALITION The Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees (http://npsretirees.org) consists of over 350 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. On September 21, 2004, CCNPSR issued "A Call to Action: Saving our National Park System," a detailed "call for action" spelling out how to overhaul the National Park over the next 12 years leading up to the NPS' 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. On May 27, 2004, the Coalition released the findings of a new national survey based in part on information from 12 representative U.S. national parks. The CCNPSR analysis revealed a combination of significant cuts in budget, staff and visitor services at all of the parks, a finding that casts into doubt the truthfulness of March 24, 2004 testimony by National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, who told angry members of Congress that Americans would not see major park cuts this summer and that "outstanding visitor services" would be provided. The Coalition report found the following: budgets were down at eight of the 12 parks; employee levels were reduced at all of the parks; six of the 12 parks already have or will cut visitor center hours; all six of the surveyed historic parks will allow key facilities to further deteriorate without needed maintenance; nine of the 12 parks have made cuts that will result in a reduced experience for visitors; and, most surprisingly, some parks are even cutting vital law enforcement positions needed to protect visitors and natural resources -- even though NPS policy specifies "no net loss" in these positions. The Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees made national news on March 17, 2004, when it revealed internal NPS memos directing park superintendents to make cuts in summer 2004 park services and to then mislead the news media and public about the cuts, which were to be referred (and only if necessary) as "service level adjustments." The ensuing public flap led to a March 24, 2004 hearing by the House Appropriations Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives at which NPS Director Mainella made the following claim that since has been disputed by CCNPSR: "... our parks will be open ... resources are protected ... and outstanding visitor services provided. And, we will get that job done."
SOURCE Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees