The Early Years,
Defining The System,
The New Deal Years,
The Poverty Years,
The Ecological Revolution,
A System Threatened,
STATE OF THE PARKS REPORT, 1980
STATE OF THE PARKS
The National Park Service recently has completed its first Service-wide survey designed to identify and characterize threats that endanger the natural and the cultural resources of the parks. This 1980 State of the Parks report presents the results of that survey. It focuses on three aspects of the threats to the parks problem: First, the Report identifies specific threats which endanger the resources of individual parks; second it identifies sources of threats, whether located internal or external to park boundaries; and third, the Report identifies park resources which are endangered by the threats.
The findings presented in this Report are based upon information submitted by park superintendents, park natural and cultural resource managers, park scientists, and park planners. It should be emphasized that the recognition and the perception of threats may be affected by the professional training and experience of these observers. A park superintendent, for example, may be most sensitive to operational problems associated with overcrowding or vandalism; a park scientist or resource management specialist may be particularly aware of threats to water quality or wildlife habitat; a park planner is more likely to perceive disruptions associated with zoning or land use practices. Further, the respondent to the threats survey may show a greater interest in problem areas with prospective solutions and may fail to emphasize certain issues simply because they appear to be beyond his or her span of influence. Clearly, there are subjective judgments involved in any threats reporting and evaluation process. However, collectively, the results of this systematic park-by-park survey provide important new information concerning a broad spectrum of problems and issues with which the National Park Service must deal.
THREATS SURVEY RESULTS
The term "threats" as used in this Report refers to those pollutants, visitor activities, exotic species, industrial development projects, etc., which have the potential to cause significant damage to park resources or to seriously degrade important park values or park experiences. Without qualification, it can be stated that the cultural and the natural resources of the parks are endangered both from without and from within by a broad range of such threats. In this regard, the most significant findings developed in this study may be summarized as follows:
If this is, in fact, the reason for the increased occurrence of reported threats in the Biosphere Reserve parks, it suggests that significant numbers of threats may have been overlooked in other parks which, to date, have received much less monitoring and research attention.
The units of the National Park Service represent all of the major categories of ecosystems within which we live. These parks, individually and collectively, constitute the best of our natural and cultural resources. The lessons that we learn and the progress that we make in our attempts to better manage and protect these resources are of benefit to us all.
The results of this study indicate that no parks of the System are immune to external and internal threats, and that these threats are causing significant and demonstrable damage. There is no question but that these threats will continue to degrade and destroy irreplaceable park resources until such time as mitigation measures are implemented. In many cases, this degradation or loss of resources is irreversible. It represents a sacrifice by a public that, for the most part, is unaware that such a price is being paid.
The diversity and complexity of the problems identified in this report serve to emphasize the need for an expanded program to protect and preserve the resources of the parks. To develop and implement such a program requires that the National Park Service know what natural and cultural resources exist in each park, establish the condition of these resources, and determine how and to what extent these resources are threatened. Essentially we must do the following:
To accomplish these objectives will require that the Service significantly expand its research and resource management capabilities. At the present time, the natural science research program of the National Park Service is base funded at a level of only nine million dollars and is staffed by fewer than 100 scientists; this is an average of less than one researcher for each three units of the System and represents only 1.1 percent of the total Park Service staff. Similarly, there are fewer than 200 personnel in the Service who have res management training; many of these personnel are senior level Rangers and Park Superintendents who are able to devote a small portion of their time to resource management problem
The staff and the funding resources currently available within the research and the resource management areas clearly are inadequate to respond to the needs of the Service. Internal actions are being taken to strengthen existing research and resource management programs. However, it must be emphasized that a continuing and expanded commitment is required to address the wide range of issues defined by the threats survey, and that the support of the Congress will be needed to deal with these important problems.
A final comment. The enabling legislation establishing the National Park Service and its individual park units clearly mandates, as the primary objective, the protection, preservation and conservation of park resources, in perpetuity for the use and enjoyment of future generations. The National Park Service recognizes that changes in priorities and reallocation of resources will be required to meet this mandate and is committed to such changes.
Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1980, vh-x.