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Letter to editors: Parks Service takes exception with Knight Ridder article

EDITORS: On April 15, KRT moved a story slugged PARKS:WA by Knight Ridder reporter Matt Stearns. In response, the National Park Service asked us to move the letter below. This is a letter of rebuttal, not an error correction.

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To the Editor:

Your recent article on the National Park Service budget is incorrect and unfairly characterizes the state of our national parks by asserting that the Bush administration has "ordered national parks to show that they can function at 80 percent or less of their operating budgets." That is not the case.

The budget for the 2007 fiscal year proposed by the president earlier this year would cut $100.5 million from the current year's NPS budget, as your story reported, but the budget proposal also includes a net increase in operations of more than $23 million, which the story omitted. Funding for the operations account of the NPS has increased 25 percent since 2001.

The article erroneously asserts that the one of the NPS' business management tools, our "core operations analysis," prescribes cuts. The fact is that this is a strategic planning initiative that ensures available funding goes primarily to a park's core purpose, and explicitly states that any achieved savings through efficiencies will stay in the park. This effort was initiated by NPS regional park managers, not the Bush administration, more than two years ago.

These are challenging times. Our employees are innovative and do a great job providing high-quality visitor services with available resources. More than 270 million people visited our parks last year, and 96 percent say they had a great experience. We intend to keep it that way.

Sincerely,

Fran Mainella, Director

National Park Service

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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