NPS Retirees: National Park Service Is Hiding Report Calling for More Scientific Approach to Park Management

7 Months Pass Since Submission of Report That

Urges More Emphasis on Resource Protection;

Another Sign of Administration's Anti-Scientific Agenda,

As Reflected in Yellowstone Snowmobiles

Oct 27, 2004, 01:00 ET from Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees

    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
     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
     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
     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."
     The Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees
 ( 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
     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