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Congress Authorized Expansion of Petrified Forest National Park, But Forgot to Fund It


Roughly four years after Congress and President Bush authorized expansion of Petrified Forest National Park, Congress has failed to fund the expansion and some of the land proposed for the park could be sold to developers. Photo of Petrified Forest badlands by YoTut via Flickr.

I've told you about private development and Valley Forge National Historical Park, and about private development and Acadia National Park, and about the National Park Service being so poor it has to turn to commercial interests to preserve history.

So does it come as any surprise that Congress approved, but failed to fund, expansion of Petrified Forest National Park? As a result, precious cultural and paleontological resources could be swept up at any moment by developers.

With all that in mind, would it further surprise you to know that despite these and other glaring oversights, Congress has the audacity to consider adding units to the national park system? Here's a look at some of the agenda items that will come before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks on Wednesday, April 9:

* S. 1633, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study to determine the suitability and feasibility of including the battlefield and related sites of the Battle of Shepherdstown in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, as part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or Antietam National Battlefield;

* S. 2207, a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating Green McAdoo School in Clinton, Tennessee, as a unit of the National Park System;

* S. 2254, a bill to establish the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area in the state of Mississippi;

* S. 2502 and H.R. 3332, a bill to provide for the establishment of a memorial within Kalaupapa National Historical Park located on the island of Molokai, in the state of Hawaii, to honor and perpetuate the memory of those individuals who were forcibly relocated to the Kalaupapa Peninsula from 1866 to 1969, and for other purposes;

* S. 2512, a bill to establish the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area in the state of Mississippi;

* H.R. 3998, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct special resources studies of certain lands and structures to determine the appropriate means for preservation, use, and management of the resources associated with such lands and structures.

And while the senators will be weighing the merits of these items, a real estate agent in Arizona will be looking for a buyer for some of the 125,000 acres that Congress decided back in 2004 (see attachments) should be purchased to expand Petrified Forest National Park and, in the process, preserve ancient Native American artworks and rich paleontological resources.

"I have a lot more petroglyphs on my place than the park has," Mike Fitzgerald, owner of the Twin Buttes Ranch that Congress once upon a time seemed interested in, told the Arizona Republic the other day. "We had a ranger come through here and he says, 'Gosh, you've got enough for two national parks.' "

And it looks as if Congress is going to let them slip right through the Park Service's hands. Perhaps, though, that's not entirely a bad thing, since the Park Service more than likely lacks the ability to protect and preserve these resources, again due to insufficient funding.


I think that you fell one step short of making your point here. A priori, there is nothing wrong with Congress debating the creation of new National Parks will not fully-funding previous-authorized expansions of existing National Parks. After all, the resources in the proposed National Parks may be just-as or even-more threatened than the resources adjoining the existing National Parks. I think that your point, which you hint at, is that you consider this list of proposed National Parks (and to be fair, National Heritage Areas - which are much different animals) to represents resources that are in far less urgent need of protection that these resources adjoining Petrified Forest National Park.

With that being said, it is a little unfair to take a dig at the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee in this context. The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee has the power to propose bills to *authorize* Parks, but does not have the power to propose bills to *appropriate funds* for Parks. That responsibility falls to the Senate Appropriations Committee...


Sabattis, good to hear from you again. NPT has missed your voice.

My point, and obviously it failed to clearly make it from my brain to the page, is that Congress loves to designate NPS units, but fails to follow through by adequately funding them. In the past I have questioned the propriety of some proposed park units (Paterson Falls comes to mind), but today's intent was to focus on the failure to properly fund NPS units.

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