Tuesday, January 16, 2007

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Welcome to American Airlines National Park (formerly known as Rocky Mountain). Could it happen? It already is, although the names aren't changing. The National Park Service is increasingly looking to outside private sources in an effort to help maintain parks, the agency's new director said recently.
Here's the AP story:
“We’re much more business savvy than we used to be,” Mary Bomar, a career employee who became director in October, said in one of her first interviews as head of the agency. A federal Government Accountability Office report last year said the park service is increasingly cutting back on visitor services, education programs and protections for natural and cultural resources because funding has failed to keep pace with rising operating costs. And the agency’s budget has remained tight in recent years as federal dollars have been scarce. The agency also has a years-long maintenance backlog that has been estimated to cost billions of dollars. Bomar said the park service admits it has challenges, including the rising operating budgets, shrinking staff, aging facilities and a diminished visitor experience due to these problems. Parks have also lost some of their relevancy and connections to younger generations, she said. Bomar said philanthropy will be a big part of a plan to revitalize and restore parks for the agency’s 100th anniversary in 2016, announced this year as an effort called the “centennial challenge.”The agency wants to “look at projects where we could match and leverage funding,” she said. “Why not?” The agency is currently bringing in around 12 percent of its budget from outside sources, while a decade ago almost 100 percentof the budget was federally appropriated. Officers have been holding meetings with private interests, increasing awareness about the agency’s fundraising efforts.Much of the private support for national parks is contributed through the National Park Foundation, chartered by Congress in1967. In past years, companies such as American Airlines Inc., Discovery Communications Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., Ford Motor Co., and Time magazine have each donated millions to parks. Some critics have been concerned that increased federal dollars could cross a line. In 2004, the agency proposed letting some employees solicit donations, accepting alcohol and tobacco company donations for the first time and giving donors the right to put their names on rooms, benches and bricks.T hose proposals were scuttled last year after criticism, and Bomar said she has no plans to revisit the issue. As part of the centennial challenge, the parks plan several “signature projects,” including a new visitor center at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and restoration of Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The Park Service has acknowledged that the aging Ellis Island complex has been neglected over the years, and the agency hopes to use some private dollars in an effort to restore the historic immigrant gateway. Bomar said she has no plans to re-open the Statue of Liberty’scrown, however, which has been closed to visitors since the Sept. 11 attacks. She was less forthcoming about other park policies, saying it would be “inappropriate to discuss” the issue of snowmobiles inYellowstone National Park. A temporary plan caps the number of snowmobiles entering Yellowstone at 720 a day, and allows 140 snowmobiles a day to enter Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway,which connects the two parks. Critics say the vehicles contribute to noise and air pollution in the parks. Late last year, the agency issued a draft statement to statesand other government agencies proposing to maintain the current plan. A final decision is expected by next winter. “There is no decision made” on the snowmobile issue, Bomar said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too bad the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex controls our tax dollars and diverts 468 billion per year to the Pentagon (not including the cost of the current wars) for killing people. Take 20-40 billion off the killing budget, and we could pay for everything our country really needs without increasing taxes by a penny. Plus we would still out spent every country in the World by 300 billion. That's a lot of killing.