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Science and the National Parks
activities. The 39 million acres of designated Wilderness and additional areas proposed for wilderness classification within the national park system are especially valuable in this regard (Hendee et al., 1990). The international scientific significance of U.S. national parks is recognized in the designation of more than 30 NPS units as Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites. In terms of scientific value, these sites are among the world's premier natural and historic areas (Table 5-1).
Parks can contribute to the advancement of science and to the understanding of regional and global environmental change. Sometimes, the parks provide truly unique conditions for study. Obviously, the potential for parks to contribute to the basic understanding of natural processes is enormous, yet this potential has not been adequately developed. Support for the idea of parks for science has suffered the same fate as has support for science for the parks—far less has been done than should be expected given the vast potential. Relatively few examples of securely funded, long-term, basic ecological research on questions of national and international importance exist within the national park system.
A parks for science research program should have as a basic tenet encouragement of externally funded research that complements ongoing park research and will aid in generating a useful data base. Although parks for science research often is funded by extramural sources and often is conducted by university researchers, NPS scientists also should be allowed to devote some of their professional time to this pursuit. A basic research component within the NPS science program will aid the professional growth of NPS scientists and will benefit the management-oriented science program.
The establishment of a strong parks for science program will strengthen, not diminish, the importance of management-oriented research. Indeed, given that financial resources will always be limited, it is expected that most NPS funding for science will be devoted to management-oriented research. It also is expected that the results of parks-for-science research and the sharing of information with external researchers will, in fact, often aid park management. But regardless of its management value, parks-for-science research should be en-