From Gettysburg to Anchorage and even to Honolulu, Congressman Mark Souder crisscrossed the country nine times between March 2005 and August 2006 under the guise of gathering testimony to document the state of the national parks.
The outcome? Good question.
I was under the impression that the Republican from Indiana, financed by thousands of tax dollars, was on the road with staff in tow to build a formal record that he could present to the House in arguing for more funding for the national parks or even to garner support for the National Park Centennial Act he and Representative Brian Baird have co-authored in a bid to generate additional funds for the Park Service.
Apparently, there is no report. At least not one that's easily found. Two weeks ago I checked with Mr. Souder's office and was told they'd get back to me in a few days regarding the state of the report. Alas, not a peep, and today the congressman's communications staffer is on the road.
I'd love to see a detailed compilation of what those hearings produced. If you scan the witness list it's pretty impressive, with former Park Service directors, Park Service officials, representatives from the National Parks Conservation Association, and members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees who took time out of their lives to testify on the record about the plight of the parks to Mr. Souder.
But it would seem that last fall's congressional elections, and the fact that the GOP lost power in Congress -- a transition that cost Mr. Souder the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources that he used to stage the park hearings -- shunted any report-making to one of the farthest nooks of his office.
And that's unfortunate, for it surely would add to the literature that details the many problems the park system faces. It just might further the future of the National Park Centennial Act, a measure that probably wouldn't be the park system's salvation but which could play a role in moving the system to solvency.