Last week, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a nonpartisan watchdog group, reported a critical shortage of staff in America’s national parks. NPCA research shows that across the system, national parks operate on average with only two-thirds of the needed funding, constituting a system-wide shortfall that exceeds $600 million annually. This deficit has led to reduced staff in many parks, which in turn jeopardizes the quality of people’s visits, the preservation of natural treasures and cultural resources.
According to NPCA, park visitor centers have reduced operating hours or have been closed altogether for months at a time, while public education programs have been cut back or eliminated. Scientific monitoring of endangered species has lapsed. Historic buildings are deteriorating.
The report outlines actions that the administration, Congress and the Park Service can take to help improve staffing levels in the national parks, such as meeting annual funding needs and improving park management. NPCA is particularly critical of the Bush administration for failing to live up to its promises regarding the restoration and renewal of America’s parks.