Last week’s Empire article about the National Park Service helping the state by cleaning up and maintaining the Baranof Castle State Historical Site and Old Sitka State Historical Park is a good reminder that Alaska’s National Parks are good neighbors as well as good for Alaska.
We all know about the benefits to our local economy. National parks in Alaska welcome more than two million visitors every year, and bring $1.6 billion in revenue to the state. But there is more to it than the bottom line.
In areas where state troopers are thin on the ground, the National Park Service and its rangers may coordinate with troopers on search and rescue efforts, help boaters and injured Alaskans, and even provide transportation for troopers who need access to rural communities. With budget cuts at the state level, that kind of cooperation between the park service staff and the state will be even more important in the future.
The National Park Service’s job is to keep national parks special. That sometimes means saying “no” to uses in order to protect resources and balance people’s differing priorities. The fact that national parks are special helps them attract visitors and build Alaska’s economy, provide another source of resources in tough budget times for the state, and protect a remarkable set of natural, cultural and historic features for Alaskans and all Americans. Those are good things.
Director, Alaska Region, National Parks Conservation Association