Is the Centennial Initiative Really Needed to Drum Up Support for the Parks?

Is there really a need for the Centennial Initiative to generate private dollars for the parks? That doesn't seem to be the case for the Yellowstone Park Foundation, which recently raised $3 million for things like trails improvements, fisheries work, and curatorial work with park archives.

The money came not only from corporations, but from foundations and more than 800 individuals. Half-a-million dollars is being spent to "organize, curate, and display" the park's 5.3-million-piece archive and museum collection.

Another half-million dollars is being spent on science and research to guide Yellowstone biologists when it comes to helping the park's native Yellowstone and Westslope cutthroat trout survive against the threats of drought, non-native species, and disease.

And $1 million is earmarked to restore the park's most heavily used hiking trails by 2016.

Outside of those three initiatives, the foundation has committed nearly $50,000 on a "Campground and Landscape Rehabilitation Project" that aims to repair rundown campgrounds in the park. "The project will address a variety of problems identified by park maintenance staff, landscape architects, area rangers, interpreters, and campground hosts," says the foundation.

Repair work could range from stabilizing "social trails" through the campgrounds and building tent pads that will allow native vegetation to recover to repairing or replacing benches, bear-proof trash cans and recycling bins.

This summer work got under way at Mammoth Campground, and in the future the campgrounds at Indian Creek, Norris, Tower Falls, Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, and Slough Creek could be tackled.

Granted, Yellowstone is not one of your average national parks. Many groups and individuals are anxious to contribute dollars to its upkeep. Perhaps there is something that other friends groups could learn from the Yellowstone Park Foundation regarding raising money for their parks.

There is value in the Centennial Initiative. If nothing else, it seems to have created a unified mission across the park system to ratchet things up a few notches by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. And there truly are some wonderful and beneficial projects being identified by the Park Service through the Centennial Initiative process.

But rather than requiring that the proposed $100 million Centennial Initiative be matched dollar-for-dollar by private groups, perhaps it'd be wiser to guarantee that $100 million outright each year for the next decade as has been suggested by some in Congress, and continue to grow private-sector support much as the Yellowstone Foundation and The Yosemite Fund and other friends groups have been doing all along.