STATEMENT OF DENIS P. GALVIN, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION, AND RECREATION, CONCERNING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF P.L. 105-391, THE NATIONAL PARKS OMNIBUS MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1998.

MARCH 29, 2001

 


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to update you on the National Park Service’s accomplishments relating to P.L. 105-391, the National Parks Omnibus Act of 1998. Last week we testified before this subcommittee on our implementation of management policies and procedures to comply with the provisions of Title IV of the Act, National Park Service Concessions Management. At this hearing we will update you on the remaining seven titles of the Act.

The National Park Service (NPS) is working to make progress in each of the areas outlined in the Act. In the little more than two years since enactment we have initiated programs and studies called for in some titles and undertaken actions to address many of the other provisions. Let me briefly summarize the progress we have made in implementing each title of the Act.

Title I: National Park Service Career Development, Training, and Management

The NPS has an active training and development program. Each of our training facilities focuses on developing specific skills, such as maintenance skills for preserving historic buildings and law enforcement skills. Training opportunities are available to all NPS employees in all career fields throughout the organization. The training we provide our employees is based on the professional and technical competencies required for given career fields.

We are expanding our employee development efforts by reworking our training and development organization into a more flexible unit responsive to NPS leadership and mission goals. We will be developing a measurement system to monitor the effectiveness of our training efforts. We will also focus on using more interdisciplinary teams that are capable of responding to the changing needs of the NPS.

We have also been working to revise and update our supervisory training courses with curriculum focusing on the skills and knowledge needed to be an effective NPS manager. The courses offered in supervision, management, and leadership are developed to provide enhancement in competencies (basic skills and abilities) that the Office of Personnel Management has identified for employees government-wide. Some of these courses are NPS specific in order to enhance managerial skills in the context of our resource management responsibilities. Other courses focus on general management and supervision principles and are open to applicants from other federal agencies as they seek to improve their fundamental supervisory, management, and leadership skills.

We have begun efforts to expand our management base by advertising key vacancies, including superintendent positions, in multiple job series, including the general management series. This allows more candidates to compete and qualify for available positions and emphasizes the management skills necessary to perform the job duties. We are coupling that effort with expanded supervisory training. New supervisors are required to attend 80 hours of supervisory training during their first year. All other supervisors and managers are required to attend 40 hours of supervisory training per year. We have supplied all supervisors and managers with a desk reference on the aspects of supervisor responsibilities. In Spring 2001, we are launching our mid-level management development program, designed to prepare a cadre of employees ready to assume management responsibilities throughout the NPS. We also are beginning a best practices program to identify ideas and actions in other organizations, inside and outside government, that could be transferable to the NPS.

Each park is required to develop a five-year strategic plan and annual performance plans consistent with the servicewide strategic plan. We also require parks to report annual performance based on those plans and to track performance information during the year. All of the parks developed strategic plans in FY 2001, submitted results showing FY 2000 actual performance and are updating FY 2002 annual performance plans. The performance information provided by the parks is incorporated into the NPS strategic plan, annual performance plans and annual performance reports.

Title II: National Park System Resource Inventory and Management

This title greatly benefits the NPS by clarifying and emphasizing that it is important to encourage science in parks and that effective resource stewardship requires sound, high-quality science. NPS has developed the Natural Resource Challenge, a comprehensive strategy that actively implements the purposes and vision of Title II through a wide range of activities designed to increase the emphasis on science in the use, management, and protection of parks. Funding for the third year of the Natural Resource Challenge is included in the President’s FY 2002 budget.

Other activities that have been undertaken include development and application of a benefits-sharing policy with respect to research in parks that may lead to commercial applications and development of a strategy to protect sensitive park resource information in compliance with Section 207 of the Act.

To expand on the Natural Resource Challenge components designed to implement this title, we are significantly accelerating the acquisition of inventories servicewide and initiating monitoring in the first five of 32 monitoring networks encompassing 270 park units. Together, these will provide a large piece of the information needed for science-based decision-making. Two other key tenets of Title II are also reflected in the challenge—the need to reach out to partners and the need to ensure that science is welcomed in parks. Learning Centers, Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESUs), the Sabbatical in the Parks Program, and the Research Permit and Reporting System together respond to these tenets.

The Learning Centers focus on providing a place for researchers and students from academia, government, and other science groups to gather, exchange ideas, and advance the frontiers of their scientific knowledge. Providing temporary dormitory and office space also makes use of parks by outside scientists more practical and encouraging.

The CESUs provide a key means by which parks actively reach into the academic and governmental research communities to obtain scientific information and to encourage the use of parks as places in which to conduct research – research that is often funded by many organizations other than the NPS. The interagency nature of the CESUs also facilitates more cooperative approaches to shared research needs.

The Sabbatical in the Parks Program reaches out to university scientists through the Internet, encouraging them to consider using parks as research and learning places during their university sabbaticals and providing parks with technical assistance during their stays.

The Research Permit and Reporting System now provides an easily accessed, Internet-based place for research scientists, resource management scientists, interpreters, and others to obtain information about park research needs and to learn about past results and current research activities being conducted in parks. This system informs research scientists about conditions associated with conducting research in parks and provides these researchers a paperless opportunity to both apply for specific park research and collecting permits and also submit their required annual research progress reports.

Title III: Study Regarding Addition of New National Park System Areas

The 106th Congress authorized a total of 23 special resource studies. Several of these studies consider potential heritage areas or broad themes and sites that involve potential national historic landmark designations rather than new units of the National Park System.

In FY 1999, the appropriation for Special Studies was $825,000. In FY 2000, this amount was increased by $500,000, but this increase was identified for a study of the Vicksburg Campaign Trail that was not authorized until November 2000. In FY 2001, the appropriation for studies was $1,325,000 but committee reports specifically directed that certain projects be included within the available funds, and earmarked $300,000 to one specific study.

We have funding available to begin all of the authorized studies to date. These studies are proceeding, applying the criteria that have been in place for many years and are now clearly identified in P.L. 105-391. We also will be examining the full life cycle operation and maintenance costs that would result from a newly created or expanded park unit or an additional NPS funding responsibility. We have not yet had adequate experience with the process of identifying candidates for study in advance to evaluate what impact it is having on decisions about what action to take on the completed studies and future directions for the National Park System.

Title V: Fees for Use of National Park System

The NPS continues to find better transportation solutions that will preserve the resources in our care while providing a high quality experience for all our visitors. We currently have four parks that have established transportation fees under the new transportation fee authority: Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Three parks are collecting transportation fees with their entrance fees. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is collecting a separate transportation fee. Transportation fee proceeds are retained by the parks and expended for costs associated with providing transportation services. In FY 2001 these proceeds are estimated to be $3,200,000. We have discovered that transportation systems are costly to operate and maintain. We do believe that the expense is worthwhile but have found that user fees alone cannot fully underwrite and sustain transportation systems. In many parks, in order to adequately operate and maintain transportation systems and shuttles, we must rely on multiple funding sources.

At this time we have not completed an agreement to apportion the revenue generated by vendor sales of Golden Eagle Passports. Historically, most Golden Eagle Passport sales have occurred in National Parks (FY 1999 NPS Golden Eagle Sales: $9,954,794; USFS Golden Eagle Sales $603,900). The new National Parks Pass addresses this need and for many of our visitors has served as a replacement for the Golden Eagle Passport. As part of our efforts to plan and implement the National Parks Pass we developed a business plan and determined that it would not be prudent or cost effective to promote vendor sales of two similar, competing passes. It was also anticipated, and sales data has since confirmed, that availability of the National Parks Pass would lead to a large decrease in sales of Golden Eagle Passports. We will continue to determine the roles each of the passes play in our overall fee program. Also, we will work with the other land management agencies to market the passes in ways that will avoid confusion as much as possible, provide the maximum flexibility to visitors, and result in the highest level of benefits to the agencies.

Title VI: National Park Passport Program

The inaugural National Parks Pass, featuring Yellowstone National Park, went on sale on April 18, 2000, at more than 224 National Park System gates, at 164 sites of 29 cooperating associations, on-line at www.nationalparks.org, through 1-888-GOPARKS, and through seven online retail partners including AAA, L L Bean, REI, KOA, and Rand McNally. Since the initial release, eight additional online partners have joined these original retailers. As of January 31, 2001, 245,000 passes have been sold, generating more than $12 million in revenue.

The design of the pass, particularly the map communicating the depth and breadth of our National Park System, immediately garnered visitor and employee praise. The introduction of the pass began with Today Show coverage on April 18th. USA Weekend, Time Magazine, The New York Times, and other media partners have contributed advertising for the pass. Many National Parks generated stories within their local media markets with activities introducing the pass to their communities and region.

Travel and family interest stories about the pass continued throughout the year. In the autumn and early winter, these efforts focused on promoting the pass as a holiday gift, and resulted in more than 100 stories.

In December, the NPS unveiled the 2001 pass, featuring Acadia National Park. As directed by P.L. 105-391, the first National Parks Pass "Experience Your America" Photo Contest, sponsored by the NPS, National Park Foundation, and Kodak, was announced in December. This initial contest, which ended March 15th, generated more than 4,500 entries. The winning image for the 2002 pass will be announced in May, and the 2003 Photo Contest will be launched at the end of May.

This year, we will increase the retail sales offerings of the pass. Our retail partners’ holiday catalogues were set prior to the April 2000 kick-off of the pass but we look forward to having the pass featured this year. The NPS Reservation Service offered the pass for sale beginning in March. In May we are planning the coordination of pass renewals online, by mail, or by phone. We are examining expanding retail and consignment sales for the pass. In order for such sales of the pass to the public to be successful we must resolve issues concerning validation, inventory, expiration, and personalization of the pass. We have begun to investigate these issues.

In addition, our partner in managing the pass program, the National Park Foundation, has secured commitments from its top corporate donors to develop an array of advertising and promotional support for the National Parks Pass, beginning this spring and continuing for the next three years. Through these promotional efforts we will reach a significantly larger number of American families this year than last.

Title VII: National Park Foundation Support

We defer to the National Park Foundation regarding this title but we continue to recognize and deeply appreciate the support that we have received from the Foundation in the past and look forward to continued support in the future. Many of the projects and initiatives that we implement, including some in this act, would not be possible without them.

Title VIII: Miscellaneous Provisions

This title includes three parts, a requirement to evaluate NPS law enforcement programs, to establish leases for use of buildings and associated property administered as part of the National Park System, and to establish agreements for cooperative management of National Park System units that are adjacent to State or local park areas.

Section 801 directs the Secretary, utilizing a multidisciplinary analysis, to conduct a study to fully evaluate the needs, shortfalls, and requirements of NPS law enforcement programs. A study team of national park rangers and U.S. Park Police officers was assembled in February 1999, and a draft report was submitted to the Secretary’s Office in October 1999. The final report was transmitted to the committees specified in the act on March 8, 2000. Included in the study are suggestions to address shortfalls; justifications for all suggestions, and a statement of adverse impacts should identified needs remain unmet.

The National Park Service Law Enforcement Programs Study was presented to Congress in two volumes: one addressing the U.S. Park Police program and the other addressing the field protection rangers. The U.S. Park Police have jurisdiction in three urban centers of the National Park System: Washington, D.C., Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, and Gateway National Recreation Area in New York. Park rangers are responsible for performing law enforcement, along with fire fighting, search and rescue, emergency medical care, resource management, and other services in all other areas of the National Park System. A ranger force of approximately 1,600 and Park Police force of 650 manage the law enforcement, resource protection and emergency needs of both people and parks.

Since submission of the study, the U.S. Park Police have made progress in a number of areas: pay schedule simplification, external administrative pension costs, and funding for a study for a comprehensive radio system for the National Capitol Region. As directed in the FY 2001 Appropriations Act, the U.S. Park Police are preparing a comprehensive financial plan. The National Academy of Public Administration is currently reviewing the mission, staffing requirements, and spending patterns of the U.S. Park Police. Its report will be completed by July 2001.

Over the last few years, land management agencies have institutionalized firefighter and public safety as the paramount concern in every fire situation. We now plan to establish the same priorities for our law enforcement workforce and the visiting public. We will continue to update Congress on actions taken to address these issues and progress made towards reaching the goals outlined in the reports.

Section 802 of the act authorizes the NPS to grant leases for the use of buildings and associated property located within areas of the National Park System and retain the receipts without further appropriation for infrastructure needs in park units. This new authority supplements prior NPS authority that permitted the leasing of only historic property and limited types of non-historic property. The new authority makes all qualified NPS buildings and associated property subject to lease under certain conditions. We estimate receiving about $1,000,000 in lease receipts in 2001 with that amount increasing in future years as the leasing program is further implemented. NPS leasing activities will be handled by a new Associate Director for Partnerships and Business Practices, a position that will be established once the new NPS Director is in place.

On December 12, 2000, the NPS published for public comment proposed regulations that would implement the new leasing authority. The public comment period closed on February 12, 2001. All comments received were supportive of the proposed regulations. A number of technical improvements were suggested.

On March 14, 2001, the NPS Task Force that drafted the proposed regulations met to review the public comments and recommend final regulations. Revised regulations are presently being processed by NPS for submission to the Office of Management and Budget for final review. We believe that the new regulations will provide the means for NPS to expand its leasing activities and take greater economic advantage of extraneous park buildings without impairing park resources.

The NPS has successfully implemented the cooperative management authority under Section 802 in a limited number of park areas. In December 2000, the Intermountain Region and the Texas State Parks signed a cooperative management agreement that serves as an umbrella and guide for local agreements between NPS units in Texas and Texas State Parks (TPW). The agreement calls on NPS and TPW staff to work together to develop agreements regarding collaborative opportunities for cooperative management, training, visitor protection and public safety, public information, resource management, and other areas. NPS and TPW will cooperate in the operation of sites when feasible by sharing resources, including but not limited to, vehicles, equipment and staff.

At this time a draft agreement has been prepared between Amistad National Recreation Area and Seminole Canyon State Park. The agreement focuses on seeking ways for both areas to work together to protect and manage cultural and natural resources. Panther Cave is a well-known and valuable cultural resource that includes hundreds of petroglyphs but can be accessed by the lake, and has been subject to periodic vandalism. Working together, the two areas hope to use remote sensing to enhance protection and provide for better law enforcement response time in an effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate vandalism, especially when accessed by boaters.

Another local agreement is expected to be completed in April between Lyndon Johnson National Historical Park and Lyndon Johnson State Historical Park that will ensure the continuation of the spirit in which both parks were established, and further the wishes and expectations of President Johnson and his family. Areas of cooperation will include, but not be limited to, joint publication of the LBJ newsletter, collection and allocation of fees from bus tours, and a revision to the minifolder produced by Harpers Ferry Center to reflect the history, activities and opportunities for both the state and national park areas.

Another place where NPS has used cooperative management authority is Redwoods National Park. Redwoods National Park is contiguous to three California state parks, Del Norte State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Because both managing entities work so closely together, there is often a need to share resources. Critical services, such as trash pick up and road paving, are shared between the state of California and the NPS in a manner that is both cost-effective and protective of park resources.

In natural resource management activities, NPS is engaged in several cooperative activities that can utilize this authority. The South Florida Exotic Plant Management Team already exists as a partnership with the State of Florida, currently focused on NPS lands. Over time this partnership could expand to include state and local parklands in ways that will benefit all parks. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area exotic plant management program includes a partnership with Clark County, Nevada. Through this partnership county funds and the Lake Mead management team are employed in cooperative eradication and restorations activities in a county nature preserve, a county wetlands park, a Las Vegas city preserve, and with planning for cooperation with a nearby state park.

Mr. Chairman we have taken many steps to implement the provisions of P.L 105-391. We are always striving for ways to improve our ability to manage the resources entrusted to us. We believe that the efforts we have outlined here today will help us improve the overall management of the National Park System.

This completes my statement. I will be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.