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Utah Travel Headlines

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

US National Parks Face Serious Threats

The National Parks Conservation Association has completed a comprehensive assessment of the health of US national parks, and concluded that our parks face grave threats that need to be addressed now.

Utah's National Parks scored better than average in most respects, but the report pinpointed many substantial problems.

The Deseret News has this article about the report. Below are excerpts.

"This is the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken in assessing the health of our national parks," Tom Kiernan, president of the conservation association, said in a teleconference. "Our parks are not in the best of health."

Among those studied are four of Utah's national parks, including Zion, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Bryce. Both Bryce and Zion received "good" overall scores in terms of natural resources but were dinged for protection of cultural resources, scoring "poor."

Capital Reef scored "fair" in both categories, while Canyonlands scored fair in natural resources but poor in its documentation and assessment of cultural resources.

Overall, the report noted that as of fiscal year 2010, the National Park Service had an annual operating shortfall of more than $600 million and a backlog of maintenance projects totaling nearly $11 billion.

Not a single park, for example, had cultural resources that were graded in "excellent" condition, with the report underscoring that there are millions of artifacts left uncatalogued and few parks have even taken steps to conduct a park-wide study of what treasures may exist.

Such was the case with Canyonlands National Park, which the report noted has many known prehistoric sites such as Barrier Canyon rock art, but lacked an assessment nevertheless.

In contrast, Capitol Reef National Park has the staff to conduct annual monitoring of the park's 25 historic structures and the data is kept up to date, the report said. Comprehensive condition assessments are performed every five years, and all structures have been evaluated for listing on the National Register for Historic Places.

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