Nearly one year after he introduced the Centennial Initiative on the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service, Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne with Park Director Mary Bomar released a long list of 201 projects and programs to be funded under the proposed plan. Today's announcement in Yosemite National Park also included commitments for matching funds of nearly $216 Million from partner organizations as part of President Bush's ambitious $2 Billion, 10 year discretionary funding plan.
"This is a brand new approach of putting funds there and asking the American people to join," Kempthorne said. "Those who doubted us said we'd be lucky if we could attract $20 million. The actual result is stunning."
Some projects announced today cover 116 parks across 40 states and Washington D.C. (full list here):
- $12 million to create a "world class" New Orleans jazz museum.
- $20 million to restore 400 acres a year of Everglades wetlands.
- $26 million to replace Old Faithful's visitor center
- $44.7 million to build a memorial in Pennsylvania to Flight 93, one of four flights that crashed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
- $24 million to replace a "failing" visitor center at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
- $558,000 to reintroduce trumpeter swans and restore tallgrass prairie to Arkansas' Buffalo National River.
- $687,589 to protect rare bird habitat in the Channel Islands off Southern California.
- $4.8 million to restore forests and streams in California's Redwood National Park.
- $150,000 to study how mountain lions survive in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
- $100,000 to teach visitors how to protect Yosemite's meadow songbirds.
- $552,084 to preserve ancient cliff dwellings in Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park.
Bill Wade of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees expressed both optimism and caution with today's announcement. "We are heartened that the National Park Service Director, Mary Bomar, is focusing attention on the urgent need to make significant investments in our national parks. However, what concerns us is the potential that budgetary sleight of hand could be giving the American people false reassurance—belief that funding increases in the national parks are larger and more certain than they are in reality.”
Even Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association, reacted with an air of caution to today's news, emphasizing the critical importance of federal dollars for parks. "While philanthropy is important to the long-term health and sustainability of our national parks, the future of our national heritage is still dependent upon strong federal support. The White House and Congress have taken the important first steps and must continue to do their part in providing successive increases in federal funding for day-to-day operations to address the parks’ chronic, $800-million annual funding shortfall and a multi-billion-dollar maintenance and land acquisition backlog. Taking care of our national parks should be a national priority."
It is important to note that full federal funding for the Centennial Initiative has not yet been approved in either the House or Senate. In fact, a significantly revised plan had been proposed by Congressmen Rahall (WV) and Grijalva (AZ) earlier this year, that would deemphasize the necessity of corporate funding.
Project ideas for the Centennial had been collected earlier this year at public listening sessions held around the country, and from individual parks addressing specific needs. In late May, the Interior presented its Centennial Report to the President.