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National Park Service Lacks the Funds to Purchase Critical Inholdings


If your local paper didn't run the story, you might be interested to learn about the financial pinch that is preventing the National Park Service from buying private parcels located within the national park system.

This isn't really a new story. The Traveler touched on it early in 2006, and the topic even was mentioned, if only in passing, during the National Park Foundation's Leadership Summit for Partnership and Philanthropy held in Austin in October.

That said, the latest story on the issue, by The Associated Press, nicely sums up the situation.

Within the 84-million-acre national park system are some 5.4 million acres of private parcels, an area nearly as big as New Hampshire. They include wetlands popular for birdwatching at Acadia National Park in Maine, the site of a Civil War hospital at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and Indian cultural sites at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Many of these parcels have been held for generations by people who owned the land before Congress created the parks.

The Park Service has identified about a third of the private land for acquisition. But in fiscal year 2007, the agency was allocated $24.6 million for buying the property. That is little more than 1 percent of the $2 billion or so the Park Service says would be needed to purchase all the land it wants.

Part of the problem that has handcuffed the Park Service from purchasing some of these plots is a lack of funds, something that can be traced directly back to the Bush administration. In 1999, before President Bush came to office, the Park Service had $139 million to use for property purchases, according to the AP story. Currently, that number has shrunk to less than $25 million.

Beyond the fiscal issue is the social issue. Many of these inholdings were lands privately held before the parks that now surround them were purchased. Should the establishment of a national park double as an eviction notice for someone whose family might have owned the land for a generation or more?


We can't have the federal government evicting people from land that's been in their family for generations (on the one hand) but allow a native tribe back into Death Valley National Park (by special Congressional Act) to build a subdivision near Furnace Creek, the central area of the park

Should the establishment of a national park double as an eviction notice for someone whose family might have owned the land for a generation or more?


Good. They can't take care of what they have already!

Eminent Domain -- has been used before and will be used again for the common public good in this case for us and for future generations --
I'd hate to see these areas not protected decades ago and see a big box retail store on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

What would you think about that now?

(ps -- absue of eminent doman has happend -- and that's for the courts to address, I don't think it would have any problems
with National Parks.)

Many park inholdings are very nice sections of scenic property that are well kept (often in much better shape than the surrounding park land) with a special sense of pride and personal attachment that is generally missing from government management.

When I was a ranger I learned a lot about the history and nature of my park from inholding landowners whom I actively sought out to meet and greet. My bosses in the agency took a very dim view of my association with these backward "redneck hicks" because they were generally viewed as the enemy whose time in the park would eventually end and the "pristine" precincts of this "sacredly invoilable" preserve would be complete.

If they could only convince the powers that be in DC to send 'em the cash to rid the park of this local-yokel vermin once and for all the park's brilliantly conceived management plan could at last be realized! Well at least they could finalize the draft.......

The more inholdings the better. They help to keep a balance and add a link to local historical roots lost once the bureaucrats tear down the last cabin and replace it with a maintenance yard.

An interesting notion would be viewing map coordinates of the private holdings in relationship to the placement of current park facilities. Taking the Native American holdings out of the equation, and concentrating on those parcels that were either homesteaded or "bought and paid for", my inclination is that these plats are well away from concessions, maintenance, and other areas most frequented by tourists by design of those who laid out the parks. Private citizens conducting trade, tours, or scaring folks off "private lands" in the middle of the a national park and the NPS powerless to rectify the problem? Somehow, I doubt it. If this hypothesis is anything close to accurate, the "Big Box" retailers cluttering up the parks becomes a non-factor. You honestly believe that retailers would invest tens of thousands of dollars into a facility with no local population to support and staff it and no existing infrastructure (roads, water, housing, utilities) from which to draw "cheap" extentions to their property? Corporate America is slightly brighter than to believe the "if you build it, they will come" business philosophy. They haven't obtained and expanded their wealth through miscalculation of a given local economy.

I thought about "would retailers come to an area as remote as some of these very popular locations."
If these areas were not under the purview of the National Park Service and under private hands, IMO
I think these areas would have been well developed by now.

Look up the Moraine area of the Rocky Mountain National Park where hundreds of people who had settled there (basically a small
city had taken root) were moved out I believe in the early 1900's. I walked that area this year and it was hard to believe that so many people had been living there. Remember that the very remote areas will always remain so, but the most popular spots, which happen to be some of the unique ones, are the ones that would be overrun in no time, making more remote areas vulnerable.

Another point is to review the large areas of commercial ventures at the front doors of many of these parks, if it wasn't for the Park Service, there would be no front doors to hold them back.


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