Group Releases List Of Endangered Parks

Mountain views in some of the country's signature national parks are clouded by air pollution, while historical monuments are crumbling for lack of cash, a park advocacy group says.

The National Parks Conservation Association on Monday released its annual list of "America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks.''

Mojave National Preserve in California is among the newcomers to this year's list. Among the problems cited: water drained by nearby development, illegal wildlife poaching and habitat damage from off-road vehicles.

The list also includes Yellowstone National Park, the country's first park, and Federal Hall National Monument in New York, the lower Manhattan site where George Washington was sworn in as president.

"Although our national parks are protected on paper, the dangers they face continue to multiply,'' said Thomas Kiernan, president of the conservation association. "Our national parks need to be protected and fully funded, and the parks must be freed from the burdens of encroaching development and air and water pollution.''

Kiernan said President Bush's proposal to increase funding for national parks is a good start, but more is needed. Bush has proposed $663 million for new construction, maintenance and rehabilitation projects, ranging from erecting new buildings to repairing sewer lines that threaten waterways. That proposal for the year beginning Oct. 1 is about $2 million more than Congress appropriated for the current year.

The parks association is lobbying Congress for more money to hire additional park employees, such as archaeologists and biologists, and catch up on a substantial maintenance backlog. The commission's list incorporates threats that range from major, endemic problems _ such as air pollution in the Great Smoky Mountains along the Tennessee-North Carolina border _ to a luxury home developer wishing to build inside Valley Forge Historical Park in Pennsylvania.

David Barna, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said the agency appreciates the attention the conservation group gives to national parks. But he said the issues parks confront can't be limited to a list of 10.

"We have 385 sites, and it is like we have 385 children out there,'' Barna said. "Nobody likes to pick out a favorite child.''

Yellowstone was cited by the group for air pollution from snowmobiles. The Bush administration is considering whether to impose a ban proposed by President Clinton, though environmentalists are concerned that in the end the machines will continue to be allowed.

Federal Hall made the list for structural damage it suffered during the Sept. 11 attacks on the nearby World Trade Center, and lack of money for personnel and updated visitor resources.

Among the parks removed from last year's list: Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee and Frederick Douglass National Historical Site in Washington. Stones River came off after a highway interchange planned within its borders was moved, while the Douglass site had a leaky roof replaced.

The National Parks Conservation Association was founded in 1919 and is a privately run nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and enhancing national parks.

Here is The National Parks Conservation Association's annual list of ``America's 10 Most Endangered National Parks:''

  • Mojave National Preserve, California, where the desert's water could be drained by development, illegal poaching threatens wildlife, and off-road vehicles damage the habitat.
  • Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia, where a proposed highway could cut off the last undeveloped area from the park.
  • Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania, where a luxury home developer wants to build inside the park's boundaries.
  • Federal Hall National Monument, New York City, where there is a lack of operating money to pay for rangers who can explain the site to visitors, and a damaged building foundation.
  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska, where increased boat traffic is creating more pollution and increases the threat of fuel and oil spills.
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas, threatened by air pollution and reduced water flow.
  • Glacier National Park, Montana, troubled by development near the park's boundaries, crumbling roads and other infrastructure problems.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina, where air pollution threatens more than 30 species of plant life.
  • Everglades and Big Cypress parks, Florida, where water levels and pollution continue to pose significant problems. All-terrain vehicles also are damaging Big Cypress.
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana, air pollution from snowmobiles.