Three Ideas for Our National Parks

By JIM DIPESO, REP’s policy director

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Jim delivered this speech at the National Parks Centennial Initiative Listening Session, hosted by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in Seattle, Washington, on March 26, 2007.


Good evening. My name is Jim DiPeso, and I’m the policy director of a national, non-profit organization: Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Now, some may think that sounds like the world’s funniest oxymoron. But, Mr. Secretary, you and I both know that conservation is a cause that transcends partisanship. There are no Republican rivers and there are no Democratic forests.

I want to leave you with three suggestions.

The first, of course, is funding. The Centennial Challenge is a good first step, but ultimately what the parks need is a guaranteed source of funding—a trust fund fed by a check-off or some other reliable source of funding.

Second, we need to broaden the constituency for parks by engaging young people, immigrant populations, and urban folks in the experiences that the parks have to offer. I have a friend in Montana who runs a ranch. Every year, he brings inner-city youth from all over the nation to experience life on his ranch. Invariably, one of the most memorable aspects of the experience is—stars. The chance to see stars at night.

Third, we’d like to see a greater emphasis on scientific research in the parks. The parks, especially the wilderness areas, can teach us a great deal about how natural processes work. The parks can serve as benchmarks that will help us be better stewards of lands outside the parks.

Thank you again, Mr. Secretary, for coming to the great Northwest.