>Gettysburg Redux: The Bush Administration’s blind eye toward development in our National Parks

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The little northern Nevada beacon is back on; albeit without having completely overcome post-vacation sluggishness. However, there’s nothing like getting information from the National Parks Conservation Association about the Bush Administration putting our parks and public lands on the auction block to banish the lethargy.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1964 to allocate funding to purchase lands adjacent to national parks to prevent private development like strip malls and “McMansions.” Congress allocated $147 million in 1999 to acquire private lands for our national parks, but by 2008 that figure had been slashed to only $44 million. The NPCA is currently lobbying to have Congress restore funding to 1999 levels. Why?

Re-fighting the Civil War: About 250,000 visitors come to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia annually to tour the site of John Brown’s Raid and subsequent battles between Union and Confederate forces. However, future visitors may find the landscape significantly altered by proposals for large scale developments on key parcels adjacent to and actually inside the Harpers Ferry region. The proposed developments would alter historic views across Bolivar Heights and School House Ridge, and degrade trail corridor protection and river access. [NPCA]

The next battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, may be coming – exacerbated by the fact that one out of every five acres in the park’s congressionally designated boundary is not owned by the National Park Service. There are 119 acres currently at risk for “inappropriate development” which include battle era structures, historic landscapes, and the site of a battle field hospital. [NPCA] Those who might not be swayed by historic or cultural arguments may be moved by the fact that the Gettysburg Park returns $2.20 to the state and local economies for every $1.00 in federal investment, and that the park generates approximately $15 million in annual economic benefits, $95 million in local revenue supporting 3,000 local non-park jobs. This isn’t a bad return on a $7 million annual federal investment in the park’s budget.

Meanwhile back at the ranch: In 2004 the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act authorized the acquisition of 125,000 acres of private and public land for the park – however, four years later “Congress has yet to allocate any of the funds to buy the land.” The owner of the Twin Buttes Ranch who quit the cattle business in 2002 would like to sell his property to the Park Service, but the longer he has to wait the more attractive offers from private developers become. We stand to lose not only the prospect of additional scenic views, but the protection of artifacts and the promise of the 2004 legislation as well. [NPCA]

The NPCA has published “America’s Heritage For Sale,” highlighting an additional seven parks with for sale signs now posted on land within their boundaries.

Perhaps nothing could illustrate the cynicism of the Bush Administration more completely while it personifies Oscar Wilde’s quip “a cynic is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

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