National Geographic : 1991 Aug
PATTE & MIKE DANISIEWICZ SAGUARO NATIONAL MONUMENT Shoulder to shoulder with a saguaro cactus, ranger Mike Danisiewicz and his wife, Patte, a Park Service biological technician, examine the 25-footer to assess the effects of pollution on native plants. In the following pages meet some of the Park Service's 12,000 employees-all in their way as much a natural resource as any rock arch or geyser. licensed to sell food and hotel space in parks. They operate as monopolies and make more than 500 million dollars a year but return only a small portion of that profit to the federal government. The money disappears into a general fund for use in other programs. But even if Congress mandated that a larger portion of concessionaires' annual earnings be returned directly to the Park Service, this alone would barely reduce the financial strain. Another approach for stretching federal park dollars has already begun, with the Park Service join ing with state and local governments to create jointly operated parks, such as the Lyndon B.Johnson National Historical Park in Texas and the Lowell National Historical Park. The federal government relies on partnerships with private land conservancies. In the old days the government might have acquired wild lands and unique habitats. These days private conservation groups buy lands and manage them as preserves or hold them in trust until they can be transferred to the Park Service. Concerned citizens have also established the National Park Trust, which is raising money to buy the two million acres of private lands within our national parks. The idea is to hold these lands safe from development. Businesses also contribute to the trust, gaining goodwill in the process. Such partnerships will carry the Park Service into its next 75 years, according to James Ridenour. "Without the active involvement of state and local governments and the private sector, we could not begin to preserve-let alone manage-the land needed to meet the outdoor recreation and open space needs of our population. The natural resources of the parks are under increased stress... the present and future health of the system depends, to a great extent, on the level of public support we can achieve." This anniversary has rekindled concern for the well-being of the National Park Service. Americans care deeply about their natural and cultural heritage, and they admire the dedicated individuals who keep our parks open. Without such people, some of whom you will meet in these pages, there could be no national parks.