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Science and the National Parks
Millions of visitors enjoy the national parks each year—267,841,000 in 1991 —and they benefit from science. After the fires of 1988, an interpretive display at this burned site in Yellowstone National Park explained that the devastation here was particularly severe because the trees were already dead and very dry before the fire, casualties of a major windstorm a few years earlier. CREDIT: Chris Elfring, National Research Council.
The absence of a distinct science program hampers research planning, tracking of expenditures, and accountability for results. The lack of formal structure and clear leadership in the NPS science program also hampers attempts to assess it. The decentralized approach brings many different operational models and reporting structures and makes any kind of an audit of scientists, funding, and other characteristics extremely difficult. It is not possible, for instance, to determine accurately the amount of money allocated to NPS research, because research and resource management are funded under the same budget activity—natural resource management. In addition, it is not always possible to separate resource management from law enforcement and various other activities undertaken by park rangers. In fiscal year (FY) 1992, about $92.7 million was allocated for natural resource management. The NPS estimates that research funding grew