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NPCA "Infographic" Lays Out Financial Bind Of The National Park Service


A handy new graphic from the National Parks Conservation Association shows just how much help the National Park Service needs to manage the park system.

National Parks Need Help - NPCA Infographic


A couple more points. Even if private contractors do these congressionally micromanaged development projects without 'line-item' funding, surely the NPS has considerable expense from design, compliance, project management, completion reports, etc...all the way down to the press release (taxpayer funded spin) in Kurt's inbox.

It might sound as though I oppose any form of improving the parks. Not so! No doubt most of the above projects address real needs; I might have approved some, or even many, of them myself, had I that authority. A little more is fine, IF you can sustain what you've already got. It's just that NPS management's priorities seem so bass-ackwards. Sometimes the NPS seems like a slowly chugging steam train with a huge gang of politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs, civil servants and volunteers frantically building track and new stations ahead, while the line crumbles behind them. Helluva way to run a railroad.

Finally, even though the comment is four years old, here's some food for thought:

Submitted by Chris Zinda (not verified) on May 7, 2009.


"Having been a manager in several national park sites in administration, budgeting and strategic planning, I can assure you that the big parks are NOT underfunded. My last stint was with Yosemite and they have so much money that they cannot perform the necessary EIS planning to spend it - leaving tens of millions on the table every year.

Recreation Fee monies are quickly becoming a bane to the big parks. There's only so much money you can spend, only so many development / redevelopment projects to undertake, only so many employees to rationalize the spending through planning efforts.

In any case, you cannot spend your way out of a finite resource (or damage created by recreational overuse).

Rationing is the future."

Some good points made by all - and I appreciate the civil discussion of the topic despite varying viewpoints.

Tahoma's comment that some of the differences are based on semanics is correct, and the line between "maintenance" and "construction" is sometimes a bit blurry. I'd describe repaving a road as maintenance, but there's room for debate about how to classify widening a road that may have been adequate in the 1930s but is probably marginal to unsafe for today's larger vehicles. If an aging visitor center is to be "redone" or even replaced with a new structure, should the footprint for the new facility be no larger than the original? The answer probably varies on a case by case basis.

As to whether the NPS had complete control over how stimulus money was spent (i.e. "mainenance vs. new construction), I don't know. I certainly suspect there was considerable "input" from the Department and politicians as to which projects were funded, and the emphasis of the program was, after all, to "stimulate" the economy by doing the work with private, not NPS, labor ... and to spend the money as quickly as possible.

Do those criteria tend to favor new construction vs. basic maintenance...and did some in the NPS see stimulus money as a chance to fund new construction that would proably never be funded through "normal" channels? In some cases, perhaps so.

source is not the NPS line item construction account. It is the stimulus bill.

So what, its money that the NPS chooses to spend. That stimulus money (and the other 14 mil) could have been directed towards maintenance instead. And the same could be said for Tahoma's follow on list.

Really, D-2? NPT has run all these stories, just in 2013. No doubt there were at least as many similar ones that did not make Kurt's cut.






























Even though we disagree, this former grunt appreciates your perspective from the other end of the bureaucratic food chain, so thanks for your obvious passion for the parks! Perhaps it's partly semantics? You refer to "new construction", but I used the term "development", which to my mind also includes widening and straightening roads, improvements, upgrades, and infrastructure enhancements of any type.

Rehabilitation & 'rejuvenation' are not maintenance, they are what needs to be done when maintenance is underperformed or ignored for decades and/or the facility/resource is not monitored. These type projects have often been used as trojan horses for my definition of development, and still are, judging by the Merced River Plan, for example. All infrastructure reaches the end of its service life eventually and needs reconstruction, but the NPS almost invariably doubles-down with a much more elaborate facility. Maintenance is changing the oil & checking the tire pressure. What the NPS usually did in my experience was run their Chevy into the ground and trade up to a Caddy.

My point was not whether this development comes from the NPS budget or other funding sources, but that MORE was a far higher priority for NPS management than maintenance (or resource management) during my career, and still appears strongly so. I'll believe otherwise when they change course and start to fund some of Barbara Moritsch's suggestions in Soul Of Yosemite.

No, ecbuck, you prove my point.

Neither of these projects are funded by the park service. the articles you forward do say that $9 m of the Santa Monica project are federal dollars, but the source is not the NPS line item construction account. It is the stimulus bill. The rest, the article says, are non NPS dollars. Ditto, on the second document you provide. It says the "plaza" is the same size as the obsolete visitor center, and that the construction dollars and trail renovation dollars are all to be donated, except it looks like the NPS will contribute maintenance money to the renovation. I don't know the specifics in this budget but it is certainly not hard to find out, so I could; but on its face for both projects, none of the visitor center construction dollars are coming from the NPS. Demonstrating, at least for these projects, that tomaha's points are not in line with the facts.

By the way, beyond the other sillyness about secrecy, partnership construction project on this scale all must be submitted to the Congress, and so are available from them as well.

Speaking of Congress, sillyness and imbalanced perspectives, I wonder how much ink ecbuck and tahoma have spent on the visitor center constructed for the US Capitol, or museums built on the Mall, or built with public money elsewhere?

The Capitol VC is $500 m, i believe all federal dollars, unlike the two ecbuck quotes here. I don't believe any new museum, such as those being built or recently built on the Mall, in the US have been less than $100 m. No, apparently you focus fire on an agency that is given public information and visitor centers, just as a means to rip down down the park service.

Again, if you want the priorities of the NPS, look at the line item construstion budget. This is a public document, and reprinted in the appropriation laws each year by congress. These project are not in there. (it is true that an astonishing one-third of the budget were not NPS priorities at all, but imposed by Secretary Salazar).

So powerful is the public's sense that the interpretive and preservation mission of the park service is important, that people donate. But the two projects you cite are not the funding priorities of the leadership of the NPS.

The truth is the NPS leadership is dead set against new contruction.

This $23 million project must have been done in secret.


Oh, and this one too:


which includes the creation of a: "a comprehensive interpretation, education, and orientation plaza" ... "The interpretive plaza – a destination in itself that will be similar in scale and character to the current visitor complex"

Looks to me that Tahoma's comments are right in line with the facts.

Tahoma -- your comment on Aug 12 at 12:21 is completely at variance with the facts. The truth is the NPS leadership is dead set against new contruction. The priority system in fact is weighted so that a new building not directly essential to resource protection or health and safety has no priority at all. The projects that have the priority are the ones involving maintenance of primary resources, such as historic structures. It is nearly impossible to get any authorization for new housing, and if the 'feather your own nest' portrayal were accurate, NPS would be building flashy new housing all the time but is not. Even though to some extent housing is self-financing, it basically has a negative priority. Plan after plan in the past 3 years sent to Washington by Regions with any substantial vistor center-type structures are kicked back essentially unread, and the Regions are told to rethink the idea with interpretation via electronic media not visitor structures. It has got to the point that Regions simply purge all plans of such facilities in advance, and Washington does not even see such proposals anymore.

Some projects have been prioritized by former Secretary Salazar and formerly by the Congress that the NPS internally did not ask for, and maybe those are what you speak about.

I also checked out your source of Mesa Verde information and found the charges without context and over-broad, as well as his fundamental misunderstanding in his comments about other parks, as well as other questions about his disinterestedness. One minute he says 'chain of command' is an inappropriate system (even though 'chain of command' despite its faults does have explicit accountability), the next he says there is no accountability. Within nearly every paragraph i saw flaws and muddle too numerous to take seriously.

Like you, I have not been able to get to the facts of the Mt Rainier case. I was frustrated by that, but i do know that certain personel records are off the record, the NPS states the individual's actual misdeeds whatever they actually might have been, WERE dealt with appropriately. Despite the doubts in the Media, the NPS narrative is in fact entirely possible that he received correct punishment, and has responded properly, and could have been the best person for the job. You and I do not know. I choose to accept Jon Jarvis' interpretation because fundamentally his career shows great concern for accountability. When he was Regional Director he had the most exacting and progressive superintentent accountability system of ANY of the NPS regions, and he was ahead of the other regions in installing his system. Several mediocre performers have been moved out the door under Jarvis, as well. He has pushed all manner of mechanisms and public collaborations to try to involve the public without huge investments in infrastructure, all of which makes me give him the benefit of the doubt.

From my experience, this image of widespread waste or self serving focus is just not the way it is. Yes, it happens, but my experience is highly devoted and and effective people. There are networks of people within the NPS, but the way I have seen them used is just the opposite of cronyism, the informal information networks, like the best parallels in the US military, serve to identify good people who are devoted to the NPS Mission.

In the meantime, i think prudent accountability must continue to keep the standards and models of excellence high, but as a still higher priority i think for anyone who really loves the parks, the most important thing at this moment is to support the parks the people who work in them with all the resources and flexibility we can find. Parks and the central offices too are dealing with a lot of diversionary problems created, not within the parks or the NPS, but from our larger political environment. If people who love parks don't give these challenged managers the benefit of the doubt and all the support we can find, there are real reasons to be concerned for the survival of the parks.


Even if "budgets" are moving targets - last years actual revenues and spending aren't And if someone isn't already keeping track of those, there are more things wrong than anyone has suggested here to date. There is absolutely no excuse for parking P&Ls not to be available to the public and it will be hard to convince the public that their money is being well spent when there is that lack of transparency.

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