[NPS Arrowhead] U.S. Dept. of Interior National Park Service Archeology Program
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(photo) Tumacacori Mission.

(photo) Quari Mission.

Montezuma Castle . . . Canyon de Chelly . . . Bandelier . . . ruins at these and other parks throughout the nation-including those shown opposite-have long been honored among our greatest treasures. Yet year by year, stone by stone, they are succumbing to erosion, burrowing rodents, vandalism, and the unintended effect of thousands of visitors. The National Park Service, custodian of most of these places, has cared for them as needs arose and funds allowed.

Vanishing Treasures-a proactive initiative jump-started by staffers in these parks-hopes to change that. The key is an infrastructure geared to the long haul.

In the past, problems were dealt with piecemeal, with no system of accountability for fix-it or maintenance projects even when they did win funding. Now, a proposal system has been set up. Parks compete for project money by submitting fully fleshed out plans-and timetables. Over 40 parks have already submitted proposals, with a team of top NPS professionals recruited to judge

vanishing treasures

them. Staffers have also instituted a standardized system for taking inventory of the ruins, assessing their condition, measuring the progress of preservation, and keeping tabs on costs.

Seed money is the problem. The program was slated for $60 million over 10 years, but it has "gotten only a dribble of that" says one Park Service official. There is strong backing, however, from the agency's highest managers.

Still, park staffers eschew a "woe is me attitude" in favor of refining the infrastructure and steering money to the most needy projects. With the coming wave of baby-boomer retirements-and skyrocketing visitation-they hope that the funds will eventually materialize. Whether future generations will have the privilege of standing before the ruins of America's frontier forts, native cliff dwellings, and Spanish missions hangs in the balance.

Portrait of a Crisis
Parks in Danger
The Long Range Plan



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