Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Please, sir, can I have some more?

Despite additional dollars headed to our national parks, park officers increasingly are cutting back on visitor services, education programs and protections for natural and cultural resources, congressional investigators said today.

A Government Accountability Office report paints a troubling picture of the parks’ financial health, despite a series of Bush administration spending increases for them, writes the Associated Press's John Heilprin in a story released Wednesday.

The GAO studied 12 of the most highly visited of the 390 national parks, historic sites, battlefields, recreation areas and other places managed by the National Park Service. Park managers said they couldn’t stretch their budgets and were cutting services, including:

++ Cutting staff for nature interpretive services and conducting fewer Indian art tours in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.
++ Reducing backcountry law enforcement patrols in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park to prevent illegal poaching of wildlife and other resources.
++ Decreasing law enforcement officers and emergency dispatchers at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, threatening the park’s ability to provide around-the-clock 911 services.

Matthew Hogan, the Interior Department’s acting assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, said the report gives “a misleading impression that park operational funding has not been emphasized over the past five years.”

Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said the GAO report “confirms that America’s national parks are losing ground, and straining to survive with shrinking budgets.”

Need more detail? Want to see the entire report? Check the General Accountability Office, the National Park Service, or the National Parks Conservation Association.

(Grand Tetons photo courtesy of the National Park Service.)

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