Supporters say National Parks are in trouble

May 30, 2004


OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Wash. - The thick forests of Olympic National Park provide a soft foreground for views of its famous rugged peaks. It's this setting that has park supporters and political leaders answering what they say is the park's cry for help.

"This is a place in immediate need of protection," said Heather Weiner of the National Parks Conservation Association.

The National Parks Conservation Association hosted a tour of Olympic this week to warn that continued budget cuts have left the park dangerously under staffed.

Just three summers ago, the park had 130 temporary workers.

"This year we have 25. I mean that shocked me when I heard that number today. We're down from 202 permanent positions to 120," said Rep. Norm Dicks.

That means there are fewer rangers to greet visitors, fewer staff to study and protect the ancient archeological treasures found in the park, fewer people taking care of the park's natural features.

"The park has 3,000 miles of rivers and streams but only one fish biologist. It has 63 miles of coastline, but only one marine biologist. So we have a tremendous treasure here but not enough staff to protect and manage it," said Weiner.

They warn the shortfalls will be felt by the some 3 million park visitors this year.

"The maintenance isn't being done, the trails aren't being as maintained as they should be," said Dicks.

And it's not just Olympic. Supporters of National Parks across the country say they are in trouble and this year, perhaps for the first time in U.S history, park visitors will notice it.

Leaders of communities surrounding the National Parks may also suffer. A recent study found visitors to Olympic spend $80 million a year in nearby towns.



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