Department Of Interior
|Office of the Secretary||
John Wright, 202-208-6416
|For Immediate Release: Aug. 25, 2004|
Secretary Norton Commemorates National Park Founders Day; Touts Importance of Park Maintenance Improvements
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton celebrated the 88th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service today by touring Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos, N.M., witnessing firsthand some of the unprecedented number of maintenance projects recently completed, ongoing or planned in parks around the country.
Accompanied by Bandelier Superintendent Darlene Koontz, Norton toured the park by car and on foot.
"Our national parks and special places are treasures that belong to the American people," Norton said. "Founders Day is an opportunity for us to show our pride, connect with our visitors and reflect on the importance of the National Park Service mission."
"It is because of this important mission that we are working aggressively to do all we can to address the park maintenance backlog in our parks and special places."
Secretary Norton noted that President Bush is fulfilling his commitment to invest $4.9 billion to reduce the national park maintenance backlog inherited from the previous administration. The National Park Service budget of $1.8 billion is 20 percent higher than when President Bush took office. Four-thousand improvement projects are completed, underway or planned in all 49 states with national parks.
"Right now, the funding for national parks is at a record level," Norton said. "The Park Service has more money per employee, per acre and per visitor than ever before in its 88-year history."
To increase visitor and employee safety, the administration has increased law enforcement budgets by 23.5 percent since 2001. The NPS employment level in 2005 will be 20,637 -- an increase of 829 since the year 2000.
In addition, the National Park Service has nearly tripled funding to preserve, study and protect the magnificent natural resources within national parks. The investments help to remove invasive plants that damage our ecosystems and help protect endangered and threatened species such as cutthroat trout and sea turtles.
"Our management approach is to take better care of our existing parks," Norton said. "We are setting priorities for our national parks that will preserve and protect the culture and breathtaking beauty of these special places."
While at Bandelier National Monument, Norton observed some of the numerous ongoing and completed maintenance projects such as the restoration of thirty-three 1930s-era Civilian Conservation Corps structures, including a fire tower, which is still used by Bandelier staff to protect the historic site from fire.
In addition, Norton viewed the restoration work on the Main Loop Trail, which about 98 percent of all park visitors -- about 300,000 people annually -- traverse to view the most accessible archeological features in the park. The restoration project will make the trail accessible to wheelchair-bound visitors, add new trailside exhibits and replace the trail surface with buff-colored flagstone, which is less expensive to maintain than asphalt. In all, park staff will rehabilitate 72 miles of hiking trails.
Another Bandelier project is the $1.55 million improvement of the park's main roadway, which will improve safety and protect Bandelier's natural and cultural resources.
Next year, Bandelier will embark on a $2.1 million renovation of its visitor center. The renovation will replace outdated wiring, remove dangerous lead and asbestos, develop new educational exhibits and improve accessibility for the handicapped.
"Our efforts here at Bandelier reflect the commitment President Bush made to improve and protect national parks," Norton said. "It is through partnerships and working with the local communities and our many volunteers that we are able to preserve the special character and interpret the many unique features this rare jewel has to offer."
Today, 88 years after the founding of the National Park Service, Americans enjoy 388 National Park sites in 49 states.
Note to Editors: A report on maintenance projects at national parks is located on the National Park Service website, accessible through www.doi.gov.
Selected News Releases