Category Archives: National Parks

National Parks Boast a $34 Billion Boom as Budget Cuts Loom

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from the National Parks and Conservation Association

Record-visitation pumps billions into national, local economies in 2016

WASHINGTON – National park visitation generated $34.9 billion for the U.S. economy in 2016, a $2.9 billion increase from 2015, and supported 318,000 jobs, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today. The number reflects the significant, positive economic impact national park visitors have on gateway communities, including sales, lodging and jobs, as well as the impact on the national economy as a whole.

Read the rest of the press release here.

Acadia National Park in Maine. © Coleong/Dreamstime.

It’s widely known that our national parks are having infrastructure problems because funding has been so insufficient that keeping roads, bridges, structures, trails, and emergency and communications systems up to date is impossible.

Like infrastructure needs outside the park system, allocating money to roads and bridges isn’t sexy in spite of the fact that we see periodic reports about the number of bridges, dams, locks, levees and other vital transportation and safety structures and systems that are below par throughout the country.

Writing for SmartAsset in January 2016, Amelia Josephson said that, “According to the NPS, the nearly $3 billion appropriated for the NPS budget falls short of what’s needed. In May 2015 the park service said it had delayed $11.5 billion in necessary maintenance in 2014 due to budget shortfall. Although national parks charge fees, these fees are not nearly enough to fund the national park system, which is why the NPS depends so heavily on Congress’ budget appropriations.”

A small fraction of this money can be made up by friends of the parks organizations that raise money and fund discrete projects within the parks they’re associated with that would otherwise fall outside NPS’ spending. But this is like bailing a lake with a thimble. It does help, but the overall park’s system continues to fall behind.

Cheating the parks isn’t just about nature, protected areas, and outdoor recreation. It impacts the local economies as well–generally those within 60 miles of a park. As the NPCA press release notes, park visitation doesn’t simply bring money to the park, but also to gas stations, camp grounds, stores, restaurants and hotels in the surrounding area. Those who visit national parks tend to stray longer than random tourists who make brief stops at roadside attractions and less-well-known tourist destinations. Of course, park service employee salaries add to the “new money” brought into the regional economy from the park.

Cheating the parks and other public lands is cheating the future, and not just the environment on which we all depend even if we never go out and visit it. It reduces the value of the country in terms of assets and makes the ultimate loss of parks, or parts of parks, more and more likely in the future. We can pretend it isn’t happening just as many pretend there’s no such thing as global warming. That’s the head-in-the-sand approach. We can do better.

Malcolm

 

National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund

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The National Parks need your support, and your Representatives’ and Senators’ support of this bill before everything in the parks ends up broken, closed, offline, and dangerous due to lack of funding.

S. 751

To amend title 54, United States Code, to establish, fund, and provide for the use of amounts in a National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to address the maintenance backlog of the National Park Service, and for other purposes.


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
March 28, 2017

Mr. Warner (for himself, Mr. Portman, Mr. King, and Mr. Kaine) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources


A BILL

To amend title 54, United States Code, to establish, fund, and provide for the use of amounts in a National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to address the maintenance backlog of the National Park Service, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017”.

SEC. 2. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE LEGACY RESTORATION FUND.

(a) In General.—Chapter 1049 of title 54, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

§ 104908. National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund

“(a) In General.—There is established in the Treasury of the United States a fund, to be known as the ‘National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund’ (referred to in this section as the ‘Fund’).

“(b) Deposits.—At the beginning of each applicable fiscal year, there shall be deposited in the Fund from mineral revenues due and payable to the United States that are not otherwise credited, covered, or deposited under Federal law—

“(1) $50,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020;

“(2) $150,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021, 2022, and 2023;

“(3) $250,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2024, 2025, and 2026; and

“(4) $500,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2027 through 2047.

“(c) Availability Of Funds.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), amounts deposited in the Fund shall be available to the Service for expenditure without further appropriation.

“(2) UNOBLIGATED AMOUNTS.—Any amounts not obligated by the date that is 2 years after the date on which the amounts are first available shall be credited to miscellaneous receipts of the Treasury.

“(d) Use Of Funds.—Amounts in the Fund shall be used for the high-priority deferred maintenance needs of the Service, as determined by the Director, as follows:

“(1) 80 percent of amounts in the Fund shall be allocated for projects that are not eligible for the funding described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (2) for the repair and rehabilitation of assets, including—

“(A) historic structures, facilities, and other historic assets;

“(B) nonhistoric assets that relate directly to visitor—

“(i) access, including making facilities accessible to visitors with disabilities;

“(ii) health and safety; and

“(iii) recreation; and

“(C) visitor facilities, water and utility systems, and employee housing.

“(2) 20 percent of amounts in the Fund shall be allocated to road, bridge, tunnel, or other transportation-related projects that may be eligible for funding made available to the Service through—

“(A) the transportation program under section 203 of title 23; or

“(B) any similar Federal land highway program administered by the Secretary of Transportation.

“(e) Prohibited Use Of Funds.—No amounts in the Fund shall be used—

“(1) for land acquisition; or

“(2) to supplant discretionary funding made available for the annually recurring facility operations and maintenance needs of the Service.

“(f) Submission Of Annual Proposal.—As part of the annual budget submission of the Service to the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate (referred to in this section as the ‘Committees’), the Service shall submit a prioritized list of deferred maintenance projects proposed to be funded by amounts in the Fund during the fiscal year for which the budget submission is made.

“(g) Congressional Review.—After review of the list submitted under subsection (f), the Committees may provide for the allocation of amounts derived from the Fund.

“(h) Project Approval.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), if, before the beginning of a fiscal year, the Committees do not alter the allocation of funds proposed by the Service for that fiscal year, the list submitted under subsection (f) for that fiscal year shall be considered approved.

“(2) CONTINUING RESOLUTION.—If, before the beginning of a fiscal year, there is enacted a continuing resolution or resolutions for a period of—

“(A) less than or equal to 120 days, the Service shall not commit funds to any proposed high-priority deferred maintenance project until the date of enactment of a law making appropriations for the Service that is not a continuing resolution; or

“(B) more than 120 days, the list submitted under subsection (f) for that fiscal year shall be considered approved, unless otherwise provided in the continuing resolution or resolutions.

“(i) Public Donations.—To encourage public-private partnerships that will reduce the overall deferred maintenance costs to the Service, the Secretary and the Director may accept public cash or in-kind donations by including on each list submitted to Congress under subsection (f) after the date of enactment of this section each project, regardless of the priority ranking of the project, that costs—

“(1) less than $2,000,000, with at least a 33-percent non-Federal cost-share component; or

“(2) equal to or more than $2,000,000, with at least a 25-percent non-Federal cost-share component.”.

(b) Clerical Amendment.—The table of sections for chapter 1049 of title 54, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:


“104908. National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund.”.

Review: ‘Glacier Ghost Stories,’ by Karen Stevens

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“Glacier Ghost Stories,” by Karen Stevens, Riverbend Publishing (May 7, 2013), 103 pages, trade paperback.

GlacierGhostStories2Karen Stevens (“Haunted Montana,” “More Haunted Montana”) has been collecting Montana ghost stories for thirty years and has been visiting Glacier National Park for forty years. Glacier Ghost Stories brings her passions together in a slim, but informative volume that follows her search for strange and inexplicable events at the park’s historic hotels.

Steven’s book is, in one sense, a reporter’s travelogue: she talks about her investigative trips, the weather, the accommodations, and her interviews with hotel personnel. In the process, she includes a fair amount of park history with details for each hotel: Apgar Village Inn, Belton Chalet, Glacier Park Lodge, Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Prince of Wales Hotel and Sperry Chalet.

Glacier Park Lodge celebrated its 100th anniversary this summer. The other hotels are elders in the lodging business as well. The hotels are busy during their short summer seasons. They’re isolated from the world throughout the rest of the year. The schedule and the wild country are, it seems, the perfect recipe for legends, yarns and a long list of things that defy logical explanation.

While they don’t advertise ghosts in travel brochures, hotel managers and long-time employees had a lot to day about things that go bump in the night: people who suddenly disappear, objects that move when nobody’s looking, doors that lock by themselves, music and other sounds from unoccupied rooms, footsteps in the dark. Stevens includes the room numbers where things seem to happen. Take note of these before your next visit.

Glacier Ghost Stories includes legends about Marias Pass, Going-to-the-Sun Road, Two Medicine Valley and the Belly River. In the book’s postscript, Stevens writes that visitors to Glacier and Waterton parks “follow in the footsteps o those who came before us: Native Americans, trappers, hunters, explorers and others whose spirits even today may roam the land they loved so much in life.”

Stevens does not hear about or witness the over-the-top paranormal happenings we associate with Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King. She did uncover enough to make us wonder and to look over our shoulders the next time we visit any of the park’s hotels. The book is an engaging portrait from a ghostly point of view.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of paranormal short stories and four contemporary fantasy novels partially set in Glacier National Park.

A Glacier Park Novel

A Glacier Park Novel

Hotels in the National Parks – a sternly worded memo

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Why we’re out there – NPS Photo

When many of today’s historic hotels in the National Parks first opened, America was a different kind of place, so people appreciated “rustic” and didn’t expect to have all the comforts of the city out in the woods because, well, if they preferred the comforts of the city they would stay in the city.

From time to time, I complain about the inconsiderate people who ruin camping experiences for everyone else by “serenading” the woods with loud music, loud TV sets, video game racket, and various other hobbies that have no place in a wilderness setting. Frankly, I’m there to get away from all that. Those who are addicted to racket can (a) wear earphones or (b) go away.

The same Internet that makes it possible for me to say a few kind words about old hotels gives others an opportunity to say nasty things about those hotels even though old buildings in a restricted environment can’t (and shouldn’t) compete with one’s favorite, modern resort. But, I can’t help but wonder why people complain about the very things they should have expected to find.

People, The Hotels are Really Old

I wonder why we can’t tolerate “rustic” these days as good sports rather than griping on line about things that are, quite frankly, to be expected in a hotel built 100 years ago in an environment that isn’t kind to structures and in a place that cannot be disturbed by the kinds of “improvements” we take for granted in big city hotels that operate year-around with full access to the best transportation, water, power, DSL and everything else anyone could possibly ask for in a hotel.

Old hotels are likely to have smaller rooms, older-style bathrooms, thinner walls, floors/ceilings that creak and groan, balcony doors and windows that might rattle in the wind, no television or hotel-wide WiFi or DSL. We used to call this kind of thing charming because going to a National Park was traditionally considered “roughing it” even if you didn’t sleep in a tent. Light sleepers can take white noise machines. WiFi addicts can: (a) find the designated WiFI areas (if any), (b) consider entering a 12-step program before staying in a historic hotel so that the lack of instant access to the world outside the park won’t be more important than enjoying what is there, (c) Go away.

When staying in a National Register listed hotel, it’s good to remember that preservation of historic structures always trumps restoration, much less renovation.  Buildings are updated to comply with codes. But updating them because people want modern bathrooms, TV sets in rooms with less insulation between rooms, and a five-star, New York City experience in a wilderness setting is not only destructive to the historic building, but down right lousy management. In the preservation business, we often talk about Paul Bunyan’s axe. If you keep using it, you have to tolerate its fragility and construction and chop accordingly; otherwise, when you replace the handle one year and replace the axe head another year, it might look like Paul Bunyan’s axe. But it isn’t. It’s now a replica and no longer a historical treasure.

You Don’t Expect Granny to Dance Like a Teenager

I don’t know, maybe fewer people are tolerating granny these days because she’s old and acts her age and cannot do this or that with the same efficiency and style as a much younger person. Yes, I know, science will probably figure out how to keep replacing granny’s parts so that one day granny will be a teenager again. Of course, she won’t be granny any more either.

Old buildings also act their age, especially when their age=history. We cannot have it both ways. If we want to stay in a historic hotel, then we need to love it for what it is rather than taking away all of its history by modernizing the original building away over time with “improvements.”

In many ways, the National Park Service is the ultimate steward of these properties, because NPS  controls what can be changed and what cannot, how the hotel must function within a pristine environment, and even how much you pay for a room. Suffice it to say, the hotels are old, expensive to maintain and difficult to operate.

We’re there for nature, not pampering; so it would be nice, I think, for some constructive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor rather than listing “faults” that really are the realities of rustic accommodations in century-old hotels.

Malcolm

For More Information

Summit Sets Course for Protecting America’s National Parks, Connecting to People

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from the National Parks and Conservation Association

Historic gathering of leading national park champions shapes outline for supporting National Park Service’s mission for 2016 centennial and the century to follow

Recognizing a growing need to unite the advocates, partners and supporters of national parks in advance of the upcoming 2016 National Park Service (NPS) centennial and beyond, the most diverse group of national park leaders ever convened gathered last week in Washington, D.C. to attend America’s Summit on National Parks. The Summit was a first of its kind event established in coordination with the NPS through a partnership of the National Park Foundation (NPF), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA).

The two-day Summit, which took place January 24-26, was inspired by NPS’ recent Call to Action report [PDF download] and was designed to create unifying, clear objectives that will ensure the protection, enhancement, and support America’s iconic landmarks for centuries to come. The Summit inspired thought-provoking dialogue on some of the greatest challenges and opportunities facing national parks currently. The Summit produced a working document outlining the participants’ shared “Statement of Principles” and “Action Items” to ensure that the seeds of progress begun from the passionate and inspired conversations will take root, leading to growth, change, increased accessibility and ultimate strengthening of the national park system and national park programs. The Summit drew prominent members of Congress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, major political advisors and top conservation, tourism and communication leaders.

In a joint statement regarding the Summit, Tom Kiernan, president of NPCA; Neil Mulholland, president of NPF; and Derrick Crandall, counselor of NPHA said:

“Our parks need to evolve with us. The passionate leaders and advocates who attended this Summit are committed to a united vision for the national parks to thrive in the next century. We understand that appropriate funding, diverse outreach, natural resource protection and conservation, updated facilities, and adequate staff are necessary to make sure our national parks remain attractive, healthy places for people to visit and enjoy. And, though there are many challenges, we are confident that this newly unified focus, support and dedication by the park community will make these goals obtainable.”

Yosemite - Call to Action Report

Among the most notable directives coming out of the Summit were to increase outreach to youth and other diverse populations; to make units within the NPS system more representative of the diverse makeup of the nation; to use technology, such as social media, smart phone applications, video games and other electronic technologies to attract visitors and improve park experiences; to highlight healthy food and opportunities for safe, active fun during park visits; to increase public awareness of the 2016 centennial; to create an endowment to provide the NPS with secure funding for the future; to encourage supporters and lovers of national parks to become more engaged with their members of Congress and other decision makers, and to grow the base of support for national parks, particularly among the health, education and tourism communities.

Leading up to the 2016 centennial, the current stewards of our national parks will take up the gauntlet thrown by this Summit. Through their work, these original goals will be enhanced and the shared vision will become action.

For more information about the Call to Action, click here.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of three novels set in Glacier National Park, “Sarabande,” “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey,” and “The Sun Singer.”

New Logo and Blog for the National Parks and Conservation Association

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When I joined the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) in the 1960s after working in and taking trips to many of the parks, the group had a oval-chaped logo with the silhouettes of three bears. That logo was around for 50 years.

Now NPCA has decided it’s time for a change: “After about a year and a half of research, focus-group testing, surveys, and outreach, NPCA finally unveiled a modernized logo yesterday.” Naturally, some people wanted to keep the old logo. I support the changes, the logic of which is explained here.

Even before setting three of my novels in Glacier National Park, I was a “friend” of the parks. Since I live in the southeast, I’ve been to Smoky Mountain National Park more than any other. When I joined the NPCA, the Internet as we now know it did not exist. I depended on the print magazines from the Sierra Club and the NPCA for parks and conservation information.

Now, I’m happy that with the logo, the NPCA has also updated its online presence with a new blog called the Park Advocate. As NPCA suggested to members in this morning’s e-mail message, “Check out the blog for regular news on the parks, read about NPCA’s latest work in the field, enjoy photos and videos from around the country, and share your ideas and opinions on issues affecting our national parks.”

What a great way to keep up! Even if you’re not at NPCA member, the blog and its RSS feed will help you keep up with the latest news about the National Parks.  If you’re a Facebook member, you’ll find the NPCA is there, too.

Malcolm

If you’re a fan of Montana’s Glacier National Park and/or are planning a visit to Many Glacier Hotel, you might enjoy my e-book about the history of Swiftcurrent Valley: “Bears, Where They Fought.”

The 15-page booklet is available on your Kindle for only 99 cents. (Click on the cover to learn more.) You’ll also find it included in Vanilla Heart Publishing’s anthology of fiction, nonfiction and poetry “Nature’s Gifts.”

Joshua Tree National Park Kicks-off Restoration Projects

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from NPCA

Photo by Alex E. Proimos

Twentynine Palms, Calif. – In partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, Arrowhead® Brand Mountain Spring Water has announced the first jointly supported, volunteer-based restoration project at the iconic Joshua Tree National Park to help revitalize and restore the park, leading up to its 75th Anniversary.

Breaking ground this weekend, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water employees will team-up with park officials and community volunteers to restore two highly travelled areas of the park – the Hidden Valley Trailhead and trails leading out to the popular rock climbing area, Houser Buttress.

Once a refuge for cattle rustlers and mountain lions, Hidden Valley is now one of the park’s most popular rock climbing, picnicking and hiking destinations, and it’s in critical need of conservation and restoration efforts.

Among the group of volunteers are Boys and Girls clubs from Yucca Valley and Desert Hot Springs and marines from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center located in Twentynine Palms, CA.

Volunteers will perform critical work to prevent soil erosion and destruction around the trailhead, which has created a slipping hazard to hikers. Volunteers will also eliminate “social trails” created when visitors walk off the designated trail-areas. Additionally, participants will plant native vegetation, lay vertical mulching to curtail erosion, remove wooden ties that line the trail and replace them with rocks to restore the area, and dig postholes for fencing to secure the site. Finally, old trail signage will be replaced with new ones that better describe trails for hikers and help preserve the desert’s natural landscape.

The Park

One hundred and forty miles east of Los Angeles, the 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park features a fragile desert ecosystem. Visitors can explore both “low” and “high” desert landscapes here where the Colorado and the Mojave deserts meet.

Photo by thirteenthbat

Joshua trees are found in the cooler, wetter Mojave in the western portion of the park. Explorer John Fremont reportedly called them “…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom.”

A member of the Yucca genus, the fast-growing Joshua trees get their name from 19th century Mormons crossing the Mojave Desert who said the trees’ limbs resembled the outstretched arms raised to the heavens in prayer.

The trees, with their multi-fiber trunks and extensive root systems can survive in the desert for hundreds of years, with some trees living up to a thousand years. Joshua trees bloom in the spring, displaying creamy white flowers to complement the dark green spear-shaped leaves.

Malcolm