Park Bio-Prospecting Plan Will Be a Money-Loser

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337,
Beth Burrows [Edmonds Institute] (425) 775-5383,
Michael Garrity [Alliance for Wild Rockies] (406) 459-5936,
George Nickas [Wilderness Watch] (406) 728-5733,
George Kimbrell [ICTA] (415) 826-2770

Park Bio-Prospecting Plan Will Be a Money-Loser

Secret Corporate Royalty Plans Force Parks to Eat High Administrative Costs

WASHINGTON - A pending scheme for profit-sharing with those who extract and make
money from organisms taken from the national parks has crippling
problems, according to a critique issued today by the Edmonds
Institute, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER),
Alliance for Wild Rockies, International Center for Technology
Assessment (ICTA), and Wilderness Watch. The "Benefits-Sharing" plan
will cost the National Park Service (NPS) more money than it raises,
prove utterly impractical to operate, and compromise both resource
protection and ethical principles.

Under the plan, awaiting
final approval from NPS Director Jon Jarvis, any of the nearly 400
national parks could enter into a "benefits-sharing agreement" with a
"research collaborator" for monetary or in-kind compensation for any
profits derived from park resources. In order to maximize revenue, the
agency and its "preferred alternative B2" - hereafter referred to as B2
- allows those with whom NPS makes B2-like deals to keep royalty and/or
other financial terms shielded from public or Congressional review.

Noting
that NPS has other and better ways of gaining benefits for the parks,
the objecting groups argue that the B2 plan, which has been in the
works since 2001, has big drawbacks for national parks and the
taxpayers, including-

  • Meager financial returns more than
    offset by high administrative and technical assistance costs, all of
    which would come out of the Park Service's budget;
  • Corporate
    revenues earmarked for the park that was home to the original resource
    and superintendents facing uncomfortable choices between protecting
    resources from exploitation and maximizing their particular park's
    income; and
  • Public backlash and loss of NPS reputation over
    allowing the financial nitty-gritty of "benefits sharing" to be kept
    from public and Congressional view.

"This is a full
employment plan for consultants on the taxpayer's dime," stated PEER
Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Rather than supporting research or
conservation programs, national parks will lose net revenue under this
plan for a least a decade - and might never turn a profit."

Much
of the interest in the "benefits sharing" plan revolves around
"bioprospecting" - particularly research derived from microorganisms
drawn from unique park settings, such as geysers. At Yellowstone
National Park, a bioprospecting benefit-sharing agreement resulted in
considerable consultant and administrative costs ($359,000 over two
years, according to records obtained by PEER under the Freedom of
Information Act). The cost of that deal exceeded the "mid-range"
estimate for system-wide revenue that NPS projects from all such
agreements after five years under its "preferred" B2 plan.

"At
the start of all this, we wondered whether NPS plans were legal," said
Beth Burrows, head of the Edmonds Institute, lead plaintiff in the suit
that forced public examination of the original Yellowstone
bioprospecting arrangement. "Now we wonder, whether they are wise or
even smart. No one loves a business park."

 

Read the groups' letter to NPS Director Jarvis

See the NPS Benefit-Sharing Environmental Impact Statement

Visit the Parks Not for Sale website

Look at how the bio-prospecting plan developed

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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