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Report finds serious damage to parks.

A report released by the Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General this fall found that the National Park Service did not "correct or mitigate on a timely basis" known threats to some parks.

The report also found that the Park Service does not have the information or monitoring programs needed to track changes in the condition of the parks. As a result, it said, "serious and irreversible damage has occurred in some of our national parks."

"The report makes a point NPCA has made repeatedly, that the parks face real threats," said NPCA President Paul Pritchard. "The administration for too long has had a policy of indifference. NPS has not had the support to correct these problems and in fact has often been discouraged from doing so."

The inspector general's report cited more than a dozen examples of parks with serious environmental problems. At Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Idaho, water used to irrigate adjacent farmland has caused repeated landslides into the park since 1988. By 1992, when the park received funds to address the problem, 75 acres of fossil beds had been destroyed.

The Park Service has also not had the money to clean up enormous volumes of debris, some of it hazardous, washed up on the shore of Padre Island National Seashore in Texas and dumped on the grounds of Gateway National Recreation Area in New York.

Elsewhere, lack of basic data or monitoring programs has allowed serious problems to develop. A 1947 survey of Sun Creek in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, showed that 3,000 bull trout inhabited the creek. Another survey was not conducted until 1989, and it found only 130 trout remaining.

NPCA and Park Service studies have repeatedly reached the same about park science and monitoring programs, as did a National Research Council report released in August.

The inspector general found that the Park Service budget has stressed visitor services over science and preservation, Overall, NPS has accumulated a backlog, estimated at $477 million, of more than 4,700 projects that would prevent or mitigate known threats to the parks.

"The Park Service must receive the support needed to tackle these problems," Pritchard said. "We are calling on Congress to hold oversight hearings to set a course of action before these threats completely overtake the parks."

In another recent report, the inspector general concluded that a luxury hotel planned for Denali National Park in Alaska is unneeded and goes against National Park Service policy.

While Alaska's congressional delegation has pushed hard for the project, conservationists, area residents, and local businesses oppose it. The inspector general estimates that building the hotel would cost the Park Service $39 million.

"The report says exactly what we hold," said Mary Grisco, NPCA Alaska regional director, "that with the serious needs and insufficient budgets of the parks in Alaska, it can't be justified."

According to the report, the hotel would cost $325 per square foot to build, while other new hotels in the vicinity have cost about $100 per square foot. There will be a total of 910 hotel rooms available within 16 miles of the hotel site by May, it said, and the number is expected to continue to increase.

As a result, the report concluded, "We believe that the proposed hotel within the park is no longer needed."
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Title Annotation:environmental damage
Publication:National Parks
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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