The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Bento, NPSCC, 202.291.3117
Shannon Andrea, NPCA, 202.454.3371

Commission Recommends Sweeping Expansion of the National Park 'Idea'

Final report offers recommendations for enhancing the National Park System and the ability of the Park Service to engage the diversity of America


The independent, bipartisan National Parks Second Century Commission today concluded a year-long analysis with the release of a visionary report
calling for dramatic enhancements to the National Park System, and the
National Park Service's ability to protect our breathtaking landscapes
and historic and cultural treasures. Importantly, the Commission
recommends that the agency provide meaningful new opportunities for all
Americans-especially young people and diverse communities-to become
connected with our shared national heritage, and involved to protect it.

Chaired by former Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Jr. (R-TN)
and former Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman J.
Bennett Johnston, Jr. (D-LA), the National Parks Second Century
Commission is a first-in-a-generation effort to examine the national
parks today, and chart a vision for the parks' second century of
service to the nation. The Commission consists of 26 national leaders
and experts with a broad range of diverse experience, including
scientists, historians, conservationists, academics, business leaders,
policy experts, and retired Park Service executives.

"At some of the most difficult times in American history, presidents
and Congress have had the courage and foresight to protect our national
heritage, and expand the ability of national parks to benefit all
Americans. This is another of those moments," said Senator Baker.

"The national parks truly are America's Best Idea, and these
recommendations will make the national parks even more central to the
lives of all Americans," said Senator Johnston.

First, the Commission recommends expansion of the National Park Idea
by enhancing educational opportunities within the park system and
community conservation and local partnerships to preserve our national
heritage. Specifically, the Commission called for an expansion of the
National Park Service's mission, making education an explicit part of
the mission for the first time. The report also recommends expanding
the park system itself to protect segments of all of America's
ecological and cultural treasures and to represent the diversity of our
changing nation.

The Commission also called for a sweeping revitalization of the
National Park Service, including strengthening the management,
research, and community assistance capacity of the agency, along with
significant steps for the Park Service to become a more innovative,
diverse, and responsive organization prepared for the expanded vision
of the system.

The Commission recommended actions to preserve America's natural and
cultural resources by strengthening the Park Service's capacity to
preserve park resources through expansion of its ability to prevent
other federal agency actions that would adversely impact parks. The
report also identifies enhancements to Park Service authorities,
budgets, and programs that provide the leverage to work cooperatively
with local communities and stakeholders to preserve parks and
surrounding landscapes.

And, recognizing the importance of funding for the system, the
Commission's final report includes recommendations for Congress and the
Administration to fully fund park needs through existing federal
programs that benefit the Park Service, and offered proposals for
enhanced permanent and sustainable funding from public and private
sources. A key recommendation is the creation of a
Presidentially-appointed commission to promote the importance of the
parks and raise substantial private funds by the 2016 centennial of the
Park Service. At a phone-in press conference today, the
Commission presented its report to the Secretary of Interior Ken
Salazar. The full report, which includes detailed recommendations to
the White House and Congress, and extensive reports from the seven
committees of the Commission, is available online.

The National Parks Second Century Commission first met in August 2008 at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California, and in October at Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts. In January 2009 the Commission met at Yellowstone National Park, followed in March with a meeting at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and in June at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
in Tennessee. The Commission heard from a wide range of subject matter
experts, park managers, and the general public over the course of its
12-month effort, culminating in this report which will be shared with
the Congress, the Administration, park advocates, stakeholders, and the
American people.

The Commission was convened by the non-profit National Parks
Conservation Association, the leading voice of the American people in
protecting and enhancing our National Park System. The Commission's
report was endorsed today by the Trust for Public Land, Coalition of
Concerned National Park Service Retirees, and other organizations.

NPCA is a non-profit, private organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the U.S. National Park System.