The executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees fired off a fax today to Congressman Norm Dicks, and in it expressed "serious concerns" about the section in the president's $3 Billion Centennial Initiative that concerns private fund-raising.
Dicks, of course, is the new chairman of the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. As such, he carries significant weight when it comes to considering the Interior Department's proposed FY08 budget.
Regarding the centennial initiative, the coalition stated that it sees "no safeguards to limit the donations that would be matched to bona fide non-profit philanthropic 'friends groups' and foundations..."
Without such safeguards, the coalition adds, "we are concerned that park managers, in their zealousness to reach the annual goal of $100 million in donations, could be tempted to expand their efforts to seek donations from sources beyond the appropriate philanthropic ones. This could open the door wider and wider for conflicts and inappropriate 'quid pro quo' authorizations in return for donations."
In its letter, the coalition also reiterated its longstanding position that philanthropy should not take the place of federal funding for the national parks.
"Moreover, we are very skeptical of any effort that would increase the potential for the management of the parks to be disproportionately influenced by money from commercial or special interests," the letter reads. "CNPSR strongly believes that for the National Park Service to effectively meet its mission under the 1916 Organic Act, all essential operational programs and functions in the parks and in the (Park Service) must be funded from public sources and not subsidized or 'offset' by funding from private sources."
Copies of the letter were sent to Dirk and Mary, as well as the chairmen/chairwomen of the House Natural Resources Committee, the House national parks subcommittee, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Senate national parks subcommittee.