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El Capitan and the Yosemite valley.

National Parks Still Fighting to Survive

September 09, 2008 07:59 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
U.S. national parks face the harsh reality of deterioration and expensive maintenance, but government programs could help save parks’ aging cultural sites.

Withering Relics

National Parks across the United States are struggling to combat deterioration. A program called Vanishing Treasures, which assesses and documents park damage and conducts repairs, has been putting close to $1 million into park projects every year since 1998. However, archaeologists, park service workers and volunteers say that is not nearly enough funding to preserve ancient cultural relics, such as adobe structures and cave dwellings.

Jerry Rogers was a regional parks service director in Santa Fe when he helped initiate Vanishing Treasures. Rogers said, “What we’re really doing is prolonging their survival as long as we can, so people can see and learn from them.”

Although the Bush administration doled out a total of $4.7 billion to some national parks in June 2006, most of that money went to repairing “decaying roads and structures that were on maintenance backlog lists for years,” reports MSNBC.

Even with that funding, park managers were concerned over growing costs related to “homeland security, labor, energy and the crush of 270 million annual visitors.”

However, parks could have a saving grace. President Bush’s Centennial Initiative, which plans to distribute $1 billion to parks over the next decade in preparation for the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016, has made headway in Knoxville’s Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. With money from the Initiative, the park has hired more staff and lengthened hours.

In August 2008, President Bush pressured Congress to move ahead with Centennial Challenge legislation by identifying offsets for the program, which would fund restoration work and maintenance. First Lady Laura Bush has been a champion of the program, according to the C&O Canal Trust.

Background: Vanishing Treasures and the Centennial Initiative

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) Vanishing Treasures program began as a grassroots initiative. A group of park managers joined in the early 1990s after a period of parks neglect due to various factors. The program addresses the deterioration of national parks in three ways: documentation, repair and training of craftsmen. According to the NPS, “Seed money is the problem.” The Vanishing Treasures program has not received the full $60 million it was originally intended to run on.

The Centennial Initiative
is a government program announced by the White House in February 2007. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has created standards to enhance U.S. national parks in the decade leading up to their 100th anniversary in 2016. The program will utilize private philanthropy and government funding to finance park improvements.

Related Topic: Park attendance

Reference Material: More Centennial Initiative; Parks Guide


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