So much promise ranges across the land each January 1. The blotters are all clear, the expectations great, and the hopes and aspirations high. With that understood, here's a short "wish list" for the National Park Service and its wondrous system of parks as we head off into 2014.
* That Congress passes an annual appropriaton to properly and adequately fund all federal agencies, including the National Park Service.
"Most Americans agree that Congress not passing a budget and instead shutting down the federal government is no way to run the country," said Joan Anzelmo, spokesperson for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. "CNPSR hopes Congress will return to one of its most core responsibilities, which is to annually appropriate funds so that all agencies can more effectively plan and efficiently manage appropriated funds and serve the American people."
When it comes to the Park Service's budget specifically, she said Congress should fully fund the agency so it can meet its mandates, and for the good of the country.
"The agency's budget has remained stagnant for over five years and yet its visitation, responsibilities and overall cost of doing business continue to increase each year," she said. "The national parks are great economic generators for the nation. Instead of slashing the budget, Congress should adequately fund the National Park Service for the intrinsic values the parks provide and the billions of dollars in revenues they return annually."
* That through proper funding levels the Park Service can restore its educational and interpretive programs that benefit so many families and schoolchildren.
"When our national parks are stronger, we are stronger. As we approach the centennial of America’s best idea and commemorate 100 years of our National Park Service, our most spectacular and cherished places deserve more than simply being kept open," said Clark Bunting, president and chief executive officer of the National Parks Conservation Association. "They need to be adequately and sustainably funded so that they can continue to create jobs and draw tourists from around the world—even as they inspire us and safeguard our nation’s heritage."
Added Courtney Lyons-Garcia, executive director of Friends of Big Bend National Park, "... we wish for high attendance, continued excellent interpretive experiences, and a Congress that will provide adequate funding for our partners to do their jobs for America's greatest treasures!"
* That compromise, not litigation, is used more often to resolve conflicts between user groups in the national parks. Too many millions of dollars are spent on lawsuits, money that could be better spent on the parks themselves.
* That ever-increasing fees aren't seen as a panacea for the Park Service's funding woes.
* That a cold snap descends over Lake Superior and Isle Royale National Park long enough in the coming months to create ice bridges that dispersing wolves will follow to the national park with vital new gene flows that might prevent the park's single-digit wolf pack from going extinct.
* That smartphone approaches to park interpretation not lead to a communications disconnect between flesh-and-blood visitors and flesh-and-blood rangers.
* That you find more than ample opportunities to visit the parks you love.