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Natural Resource Challenge Original Press Release

Protecting America's Natural Heritage: National Park Service Announces New Plan to Strengthen and Revitalize Natural Resource Programs in National Parks

Original Press Release Date: August 12, 1999

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, WA - National Park Service (NPS) Director Robert Stanton today announced a major effort to substantially improve how the NPS manages the natural resources under its care. The Natural Resource Challenge: The National Park Service's Action Plan for Preserving Natural Resources addresses the challenges of caring for our country's natural heritage within the complexities of today's modern landscapes.

"This Action Plan represents our strong commitment to preserving our country's precious natural heritage for this and future generations," said Stanton. "Preserving our natural resources far into the future now requires active and informed management based on sound science."

The mission of the National Park Service is the same today as it was when the NPS was established in 1916 -- to preserve this nation's natural and cultural heritage, unimpaired for the enjoyment of this and future generations. Yet today, the NPS faces challenges that could not have been imagined by the early pioneers of the National Park System. Urban development, habitat destruction, non-native species invasions, and air and water pollution have damaged ecosystems and ruined scenic vistas. As visitation and new activities and uses of the parks increase, so do the pressures on fragile park resources.

NPS Historian Richard West Sellars' 1997 Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History brought attention to the challenges of addressing natural resource threats and inspired the Service to develop this renewed commitment to preserving America's natural heritage.

This Action Plan embraces a strong emphasis within the NPS to make resource preservation and conservation an integral consideration in all management actions the NPS undertakes while maintaining, if not improving, the outstanding recreational and educational experiences embraced by park visitors. The Action Plan calls for substantially increasing the role of science in decision-making, revitalizing and expanding natural resource programs, gathering baseline data on resource conditions, strengthening partnerships with the scientific community, and sharing knowledge with educational institutions and the public.

The Action Plan will seek to address the major challenges that the NPS faces in preserving natural resources and will outline strategic approaches to be undertaken over the next five years. The challenges include protecting native species and their habitats, providing leadership for a healthy environment, and connecting parks to protected areas and parks to people. Within the broad context of these challenges, the plan specifically addresses protecting habitat for endangered and native species, targeting non-native species for removal, inventorying natural resources and monitoring their condition, monitoring air and water quality, collaborating with other natural resource experts, and utilizing parks as scientific laboratories and classrooms.

In response to these challenges, the Action Plan lists specific actions that are to be taken immediately. These include implementing an Environmental Leadership program to reduce the impact of park operations on the natural environment, implementing a new and uniform scientific research and collecting permit process, merging resource preservation into mainstream park planning, and establishing a Sabbatical-in-Parks program for visiting scientists.

The President's FY 2000 budget includes nearly $20 million in increases that would begin to implement the Action Plan. These funds will help complete natural resource inventories so that park managers have critical baseline data available for informed decision making. They will increase funding for large-scale preservation projects and target restoration of threatened and endangered species and restoration of areas damaged due to human disturbance. Future budget requests will increase park base-funding, expand the air quality monitoring network, establish water quality monitoring stations in 75 park units, and enhance NPS capability to prevent and prosecute resource crimes such as poaching.

"Parks are extraordinary places from which to acquire knowledge and learn about the natural world. They provide unparalleled opportunity to understand the complexities of nature, while also ensuring that our generation and future generations can learn from them," said Stanton. "With this effort the national parks will remain not only scenic vacation destinations but also natural laboratories, libraries and classrooms."

Editor's Note: The Action Plan is available online.

Last Updated: May 24, 2012