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Publication Date: September 2006

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33484

Topic: Environment (Parks, nature reserves, and open spaces)

Abstract:

The 109th Congress is considering legislation and conducting oversight on National Park Service (NPS) related topics. The Administration is addressing park issues through budgetary, regulatory, and other actions. Earlier Congresses and Administrations also have dealt with similar issues. While this report focuses on several key topics, others may be added if circumstances warrant.

Historic Preservation. The NPS administers the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), which provides grants to states and other entities to protect cultural resources. Congress provides annual appropriations for the HPF, and views differ as to whether to retain the federal role in financing the fund. Legislation to reauthorize the HPF (S. 1378 and H.R. 5861) is being considered. Further, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has issued a draft revision of its policy statement regarding treatment of burial sites, and the draft has been controversial.

Maintenance Backlog. Attention has focused on the NPS's maintenance backlog, estimated by DOI at between $5.80 billion and $12.42 billion for FY2005. Views differ as to whether the backlog has increased or decreased in recent years, and the NPS has been defining and quantifying its maintenance needs. H.R. 1124 and S. 886 seek to eliminate the NPS maintenance backlog and the annual operating deficit.

Policy Revisions. The NPS has revised its service-wide management policies -- one of the authorities governing decision-making on a wide range of issues. The final policies, issued August 31, 2006, dropped many of the proposed changes that were controversial. The House and Senate have held hearings on this issue, related NPS authorities, and broader management issues.

Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Wild and Scenic Rivers System preserves freeflowing rivers, which are designated by Congress or through state nomination with Secretarial approval. The NPS, and other federal agencies with responsibility for managing designated rivers, prepare management plans to protect river values. Management of lands within river corridors is sometimes controversial, because of a variety of issues including the possible effects of designation on private lands and of corridor activities on the rivers. Legislation is pending to designate, study, or extend components of the system, and some of these measures have passed the Senate or House.

Other Issues. Some other park management topics of interest to the 109th Congress are covered here. They relate to the competitive sourcing initiative, whereby certain NPS activities judged to be commercial in nature are subject to public-private competition; air quality at national park units; and security of park units, particularly at national icons and along international borders.

This report replaces CRS Issue Brief IB10145, National Park Management, coordinated by Carol Hardy Vincent. It will be updated periodically.