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Environment & Science

National Park Supporters Look to Next 100 Years

Jackie Yamanaka

Supporters of National Parks said to survive the next 100 years, the American public will need to visit and support the sites.

“I had 413 options and I wanted to be in Yellowstone,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.

He was among the dignitaries who gathered near the Roosevelt Arch, the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the country’s first, to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service.

Jarvis said despite the popularity of sites like Yellowstone, the public can’t take for granted there will be another celebration like this in 100 years.

He said Yellowstone is one example of the on-going challenges and controversies facing the parks.Jarvis said wildland fires, do not understand political boundaries, “nor do iconic wildlife species, nor do threats from climate change or adjacent threats from mining.”

It’s a reference to bison and other animals that wander out of the safety of Yellowstone’s boundaries and a proposed gold mine project to the north in Montana’s Paradise Valley.

Jarvis said the bigger threat is public apathy.

Credit Jackie Yamanaka
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell greets NPS employee Grace White just before the start of the "Evening At the Arch: Yellowstone Celebrates the National Park Service Centennial."

 Interior Secretary Sally Jewell added without public support, the National Park Service will remain chronically underfunded. She said the philanthropic donations are welcome, but they can’t replace public dollars.

“I mean you’re not going to be able to go to philanthropists and say we want money from you because the federal government won’t do the basics,” Jewell said. “We want you to provide the toilet paper. That doesn’t make sense.”

This centennial celebration is just one example of the public-private partnership for the National Parks. Donations paid for the majority of the costs at Gardiner. Yellowstone and its sister agencies picked up their personnel costs. The total cost of the event was not immediately available.

The funding challenges faced by the NPS and the individual sites are well documented. In a recent news release, the NPS reported its deferred maintenance totaled nearly $12 billion; $600 m of that was for Yellowstone Park alone.

“There’s a ton of maintenance needs in Yellowstone and in every Park,” said U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, a member of the appropriations committee.

“And its important people support them and it’s also important Congress does their job and help lead the country in this 21st century especially as it comes for our nation’s jewels and that’s our national parks,” he said.

Tester; Congressman Ryan Zinke, R-MT; Senator Mike Enzi, R-WY; Governor Steve Bullock, D-MT; and Governor Matt Mead, R-WY, were among the dignitaries at the “Evening at the Arch: Yellowstone Celebrates the National Park Service Centennial” event.

Tester said the dysfunction in Washington D.C. is well documented. Still he said the estimated 6,000 people who came to the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone’s North entrance for this birthday celebration need to tell Congress of their support for the national parks.