National Park Service officials have updated their blueprint for preparing the agency for its second century, though National Parks Conservation Association officials believe the Service needs to be even more aggressive in looking to the future.
The Call to Action released a year ago by Park Service Director Jon Jarvis was deemed a strategy for a more expansive, and inclusive, National Park System, one with stronger educational outreach, and a revised approach for managing today's natural and cultural resource challenges. The 24-page strategy statement was not intended to be a static document, but one that is revised annually to reflect accomplishments and fine-tuning.
On August 25 the agency released the 2012 version of the document. Among the changes were new pledges to improve employee commitment, leadership, and communications, and to improve water and air quality in the park system.
The Park Service also "revised" some of its original pledges, such as improving the public's awareness of urban parks, enhancing connectivity "densely populated, diverse communities to parks, greenways, trails, and waterways to improve close-to-home recreation and natural resources conservation," and moving to "protect continuous corridors in five geographic regions through voluntary partnerships across public and private lands and waters."
While NPCA officials welcomed the revisions, they also deemed them "quite modest."
Last summer, notes Ron Tipton, the park advocacy group's senior vice president for policy, NPCA released its State of America’s National Parks, an extensive report that outlined the most significant threats to the National Park System.
"The report identified important priorities to enforce air quality laws; reintroduce native wildlife; monitor and respond to the impacts of climate change; and address the current inadequate level of protection for historic buildings and artifacts," said Mr. Tipton.
From his viewpoint, Mr. Tipton believes the Park Service needs to revise its Call to Action even more to:
•Expand the “Scaling Up” initiative, which is intended to improve the ecological connectivity of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife and plants in the face of the growing impacts of climate change, energy development, and other threats.
•Draft a service-wide comprehensive connectivity strategy that prioritizes ecosystem protection across the system so that landscape conservation can be addressed to the greatest degree possible.
•Transfer unrestricted funds annually to begin to fund the second century national park endowment NPS and we believe is necessary for long-term sustainable funding for the park system.
"From Acadia to Gettysburg and Yellowstone, the National Park System contains some of our most historically significant sites as well as some of the last wild lands of America. They provide some of the very best wildlife viewing experiences in the country," Mr. Tipton said. "Visitors can see grizzlies, bison, and mountain goats in the wild; and can experience the historic migration of caribou or pronghorn and see lynx, wolves, and other animals in their native habitat.
"The Park Service is on the right path; now we need to build on the Call to Action to protect our parks for all Americans to enjoy in their second century and beyond," he said.