National Park Service


Date of this Version



Published in Weber, Samantha, and David Harmon, eds. 2008. Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 2007 GWS Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.


Land managers face challenges from two sides. On the one hand, outside threats to natural and cultural resources continue and increase in their intensity and menace. On the other, programmatic support to manage those threats is steadily eroding. In the case of the national park system, there is now less available project funding to preserve and protect our precious resources than during the previous five years.

When it comes to the threat posed by invasive nonnative plants, Pimentel et al. (2005) estimates there are at least 25,000 exotic plant species in North America. An eastern park example illustrates the challenge. Shenandoah National Park,Virginia, has documented fully 25 percent of its known terrestrial plant species as not native to its region (NPSpecies 2007).

Programmatic funding trends are not encouraging. It is an economic case of guns or butter. The United States’ war on terrorism is suppressing most domestic budgets to flat or decreasing levels. Program funding for the nationally funded National Park Service (NPS) Mid-Atlantic Exotic Plant Management Team has steadily eroded as indicated by the Consumer Price Index. Though ostensibly a flat budget during the fiscal years 2003–2007, the CPI indicates their purchasing power has decreased 13 percent during the period (Figure 1). That equates to 13 percent fewer hours of labor or available supplies that they can purchase relative to 2003.

If your programmatic funding is drying up as well, you will need to consider how to get things done in different, cheaper ways. Åkerson and Forder (2006) described ways to improve programmatical output by use of contracts, cooperation, and collaboration to capture the available expertise and staff time of outside organizations. Building a program of volunteerism is another powerful way to accomplish work and grow a citizen base of support and advocacy.