, May 1, 2008 (ENS) - A new way of funding improvements has been introduced into the cash-starved National Park System. The private sector is now permitted to match federal funding of up to $100 million a year on specific projects benefiting the national parks between now and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has announced the first national park improvement projects and programs that will get underway this spring funded by a total of $51.6 million in public and private contributions.
"I am pleased to announce the first round of National Park Centennial Projects that will be undertaken with the first round of funding appropriated by Congress in the 2008 budget," Kempthorne said Saturday at the event overlooking the National Mall, where one of the projects will install interpretive signs.
National Park Ranger interacts with children at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, situated near Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. (Photo courtesy NPS)
The first round of Centennial Challenge projects includes 110 park projects in 39 states.
They range from expansion of an outdoor stewardship education outreach program for teen-agers in the Washington, DC area, to saving endangered sea turtles at Padre Island, to renovation of Yosemite National Park's iconic Tunnel View Overlook, to citizen scientist and citizen naturalist projects at national parks across the country.
"Ground will be broken and work underway very soon. This first round of projects will improve parks nationwide - large and small, urban and rural, natural and historical," Kempthorne said.
National Park Service Director Mary Bomar said, "Today we celebrate getting the first Centennial Challenge projects off the drawing board and into the parks. We also look forward to the day Congress passes Centennial Challenge legislation so that through 2016 there will be federal money available to match up to $100 million a year of donations. There are many more worthy projects partners are ready to support for the Centennial."
"Today, we are in a great moment for the national parks," said Vin Cipolla, president and chief executive of the National Park Foundation. "As the national charitable partner for our parks, the National Park Foundation believes it is essential to continue the rich tradition in which the parks were founded and have been sustained - public and private interests working in tandem."
The National Park Foundation has sponsored the use of a 1930s Glacier National Park "Red Bus" throughout the National Mall during National Park Week this week. In 2000, these buses were refurbished and adapted for alternative fuels by Ford Motor Company, a partner of the National Park Foundation. Ford has donated hundreds of environmentally responsible vehicles to the National Park System.
The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, NPCA, often a critic of National Park System management, praised the Centennial Challenge program.
NPCA President Tom Kiernan said, "It is heartening to see the fruition of a proposal which the Administration and Congress have together supported. But it must not be merely a one-year program. We're now looking for Congress to pass the pending bipartisan National Park Centennial Challenge legislation, and authorize the full 10-year-long program to complete important projects across the park system in time for the 2016 centennial."
Congress provided $25 million in the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill to jumpstart the National Park Centennial Challenge.
If passed by Congress, the National Park Centennial Fund Act would create a 10 year partnership between the federal government and American citizens that could double private and other non-federal donations to carry out centennial projects and programs, and inspire continued public and private investment in America's national parks.
Funded Centennial Challenge projects and programs approved in the first round include:
For a complete list of the 2008 National Park Service Centennial Challenge Projects and Programs click here.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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