National Park Service:

Activities Outside Park Borders Have Caused Damage to Resources and Will Likely Cause More

RCED-94-59: Published: Jan 3, 1994. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Park Service's actions to: (1) identify the number, type, and source of external threats to park resources; (2) identify resources that have been damaged by external threats; and (3) mitigate such damage.

GAO found that: (1) the Park Service has no complete inventory of existing external threats, their sources, or the actions being taken to mitigate such threats; (2) the Park Service cannot work effectively with parties outside the parks' borders to reduce or eliminate external threats without specific information on the numbers and types of external threats facing individual parks; (3) park managers classify external threats in four broad categories: urban encroachment, water quantity and quality issues, air pollution, and human activities; (4) although park managers can provide information on the types of external threats affecting park resources, they cannot fully identify the specific source of all external threats; (5) park managers estimate that damage has resulted from about two-thirds of the threats they have identified, and that additional damage will occur within the next 5 years from the remaining threats; (6) although park managers know what resources have been damaged by external threats, they are less knowledgeable about the extent of that damage; (7) the Park Service has taken action to mitigate 367 of the 632 identified external threats; and (8) as a result of missing and incomplete project statements, the Park Service has no means of monitoring the status of its progress in mitigating threats.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a follow-up report on internal threats (GAO/RCED-96-202, August 23, 1996), Park Service officials said it would not implement this recommendation from the 1994 report because obtaining an inventory of and information on the condition of park resources was a greater priority for the agency than tracking the numbers and types of threats to the Park's resources by modifying the resources management planning system.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, National Park Service, to revise the Park Service's resource management planning system so that the number, type, and source of external threats are specifically identified, an inventory is established, and priorities are set for addressing the threats.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a follow-up report on internal threats (GAO/RCED-96-202, August 23, 1996), Park Service officials said it would not implement this recommendation from the 1994 report because obtaining an inventory of and information on the condition of park resources was a greater priority for the agency than tracking threats to the park resources by modifying the resources management planning system.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, National Park Service, to revise the Park Service's resource management planning system so that project statements are prepared for each external threat, describing the mitigation actions that can be taken.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Increased training has been provided for park superintendents and resources management staff to work with communities to mitigate threats. Also, the enhanced resources inventory and monitoring systems will allow for the identification of threats sooner as well as needed mitigation actions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, National Park Service, to revise the Park Service's resource management planning system so that the status of threat mitigation actions is monitored and revised as needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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