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Science and the National Parks
as a management tool. Science needs to be integrated fully into all Park Service functions, and the administrative framework should allow coordinated, effective research programs at the national, regional, and individual park levels.
The call for change made in this report is not new. But given the consistent lack of response to so many previous calls for change, how can this report inspire action? The Committee on Improving the Science and Technology Programs of the National Park Service concludes that increased funding or incremental changes alone will not suffice, and it calls instead for a significant metamorphosis. It is time to move toward a new structure—indeed, toward a new culture—for science in the national park system that guarantees long-term financial, intellectual, and administrative stability. Given that culture can be defined as a complex of beliefs, values, ideas, tools, and skills perpetuated by a group of people, such a change will be difficult and require concerted attention. Three elements are vital:
There must be an explicit legislative mandate for a research mission of the National Park Service.
Separate funding and reporting autonomy should be assigned to the science program.
There must be efforts to enhance the credibility and quality control of the science program. This will require a chief scientist of appropriate stature to provide leadership, cooperation with external researchers, and the formation of an external science advisory board to provide continuing independent oversight.
AN EXPLICIT LEGISLATIVE MANDATE FOR SCIENCE
To eliminate once and for all any ambiguity in the scientific responsibilities of the Park Service, legislation should be enacted to establish the explicit authority, mission, and objectives of a national park science program.
As described in Chapter 3, numerous experts both inside and outside of the Park Service have provided advice about the importance of the science program. There is a remark-