Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
August 25, 2006

Al Nash, 307-344-2013
Shane Wolfe, 202-208-6416
The Future of America's National Parks
Celebrating the 90th Anniversary and Looking forward to the Centennial and Beyond
Michael Breis sings the Star-Spangled Banner at Yellowstone 90th Anniversary Celebration. Standing from left to right are Secretary Kempthorne, Director Mainella, Senator Thomas, and Superintendent Lewis.
Michael Breis sings the Star-Spangled Banner at Yellowstone 90th Anniversary Celebration. Standing from left to right are Secretary Kempthorne, Director Mainella, Senator Thomas, and Superintendent Lewis.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. — In a special message and a memorandum issued today, President George W. Bush directed Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to establish specific performance goals to help prepare the national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment. In honor of the 90th Anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS), and with an eye on the upcoming centennial in 2016, President Bush called on the NPS to continue the cooperation necessary for the national parks to flourish for the next 100 years and beyond.

In addition, the President’s special memorandum directed the Secretary to identify signature projects and programs that are consistent with these goals and that continue the NPS legacy of leveraging philanthropic, partnership, and government investments for the benefit of the national parks and their visitors.

Secretary Kempthorne shared the President’s vision at Yellowstone National Park at the 90th Anniversary celebration and the opening of the new Canyon Visitor Education Center at the Park.

“At Yellowstone and Yosemite, Denali and Dinosaur, Grand Canyon and Grand Teton, Shiloh, Shenandoah and other parks, the National Park Service each year welcomes 270 million visitors as they discover America the beautiful, the historical, the cultural,” Kempthorne said. “America’s national parks were the first in the world to set aside large-scale landscapes.”

Kempthorne continued, “National parks preserve majestic natural wonders. They keep watch over battlefields hallowed by red badges of courage. They keep culture alive at sites dedicated to the performing arts, poetry and music. Parks offer recreation and discovery through spectacular backcountry hiking and climbing. They honor great leaders like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Chief Joseph, John Muir, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. As havens of enjoyment, recreation, learning and personal renewal, national parks must endure.”

In his message, the President wrote:

“Americans take great pride in our country’s natural and historic treasures, and the National Park Service plays an important role in ensuring our rich heritage is preserved and enjoyed for generations to come.”

The President continued, “I call on all Americans to help in these efforts and to enhance our parks as we get ready for the National Park Services’ centennial celebration.” He further encouraged the NPS to invite and receive suggestions from those who desire to preserve the scenic, cultural, historical, geological and recreational values of our national parks.

“We are calling this effort the National Park Centennial Challenge,” said Kempthorne.

To implement the President’s vision, Kempthorne has asked the Director of the National Park Service, Fran Mainella, to recommend outstanding candidates to lead the Centennial Challenge effort. The Secretary will select the candidate who has the most passion for the parks and for this new effort.

During the last five years under the leadership of President Bush, the NPS has built a strong foundation of improving parks, with 6,000 park improvements completed or underway. The President requested that the NPS further improve national parks during the next decade leading up to the 2016 centennial celebration. He requested that in the development of performance goals, the NPS integrate the assessments of the past five years used in monitoring natural resources and improving the condition of park facilities.

At Yellowstone, the grand opening of the new facility marked the first major visitor center development in the park in three decades. Its state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits will help visitors learn about and understand the geology of Yellowstone and the “Supervolcano” which lies beneath.

Kempthorne described Yellowstone as a natural cathedral, a beautiful place but with fascinating geological and volcanic activity. He praised the new Canyon Visitor Education Center as one that, “…will enable visitors to research the largest and most violent volcanoes on earth, learn about geysers and hot springs and mud pots, and experience the incredible and diverse ecosystem this geology supports.”

The exhibits will include a large, unique globe that rotates on a film of water showing the location of volcanic hot spots around the world, a room-sized, fiber optic and LED animated topographic relief map of the geologic history of park, and life-size dioramas of wildlife found in Hayden Valley.

The Center will serve more than 600,000 visitors a year. Some $8.6 million of the $10.5 million used to fund the project came from entrance fees collected from the 20 million people who visited the park between 1997 and 2005. That is about 43 cents a person.

More than $1 million was donated by the Yellowstone Association. Other important contributors to the project include the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and Canon U.S.A., Inc.

The President's memo sending "greetings to those celebrating the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service," the Memorandum for the Secretary of the Interior from the President, and the Memorandum from Secretary Kempthorne to Director Mainella will be posted later today on