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The US National Park Service prepares for the next century of conservation

Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. --- In a special message and a memorandum issued by President George W. Bush, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne of the Department of the Interior was directed to establish specific performance goals to help prepare the national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment. In honor of the 90th Anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS), and with an eye on the upcoming centennial in 2016, President Bush called on the NPS to continue the cooperation necessary for the national parks to flourish for the next 100 years and beyond.

In addition to the special memorandum, the Secretary will be developing signature projects and programs that continue the NPS legacy of leveraging philanthropic, partnership, and government investments for the benefit of the national parks and their visitors.

Secretary Kempthorne shared the President’s vision at Yellowstone National Park at the 90th Anniversary celebration and the opening of the new Canyon Visitor Education Center at the Park.

“At Yellowstone and Yosemite, Denali and Dinosaur, Grand Canyon and Grand Teton, Shiloh, Shenandoah and other parks, the National Park Service each year welcomes 270 million visitors as they discover America the beautiful, the historical, the cultural,” Kempthorne said. “America’s national parks were the first in the world to set aside large-scale landscapes.”

Kempthorne continued, “National parks preserve majestic natural wonders. They keep watch over battlefields hallowed by red badges of courage. They keep culture alive at sites dedicated to the performing arts, poetry and music. Parks offer recreation and discovery through spectacular backcountry hiking and climbing. They honor great leaders like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Chief Joseph, John Muir, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. As havens of enjoyment, recreation, learning and personal renewal, national parks must endure.”

Americans take great pride in our country’s natural and historic treasures, and the National Park Service plays an important role in ensuring our rich heritage is preserved and enjoyed for generations to come. The NPS invites suggestions from those who desire to preserve the scenic, cultural, historical, geological and recreational values of our national parks.

“We are calling this effort the National Park Centennial Challenge,” said Kempthorne.

During the last five years, the NPS has built a strong foundation of improving parks, with 6,000 park improvements completed or underway. The President requested that the NPS further improve national parks during the next decade leading up to the 2016 centennial celebration. The NPS will integrate the assessments of the past five years into monitoring natural resources and improving the condition of park facilities.

At Yellowstone, the grand opening of the new facility marked the first major visitor center development in the park in three decades. Its state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits will help visitors learn about and understand the geology of Yellowstone and the “Supervolcano” which lies beneath.

Kempthorne described Yellowstone as a natural cathedral, a beautiful place but with fascinating geological and volcanic activity. He praised the new Canyon Visitor Education Center as one that, “…will enable visitors to research the largest and most violent volcanoes on earth, learn about geysers and hot springs and mud pots, and experience the incredible and diverse ecosystem this geology supports.”

The exhibits will include a large, unique globe that rotates on a film of water showing the location of volcanic hot spots around the world, a room-sized, fiber optic and LED animated topographic relief map of the geologic history of park, and life-size dioramas of wildlife found in Hayden Valley.

The Center serves more than 600,000 visitors a year. Some $8.6 million of the $10.5 million used to fund the project came from entrance fees collected from the 20 million people who visited the park between 1997 and 2005. That is about 43 cents a person.

More than $1 million was donated by the Yellowstone Association. Other important contributors to the project include the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and Canon U.S.A., Inc.