WASHINGTON — A lack of funding and a lack of staff on top of problems outside the country's national parks — including three in Utah — have compromised the parks' natural and cultural resources, a new study has found.

The National Parks Conservation Association analyzed 54 annual assessments of parks done since 2000 and created a National Parks Resource Index — but the parks did not score well.

On a 100 point scale, the association found that the National Park System's natural resources, which include wildlife, air and water quality and ecosystem health, scored only 70 points. Cultural resources, which included historic buildings, museums and cultural landscapes, got 61 points.

"These scores indicate that the challenges to our national parks are serious, but surmountable," according to the report.

The report said the index shows that the Park Service has done an "impressive job" despite years of underfunding and understaffing.

"But the Park Service can do only so much before external threats and inadequate funding and staffing begin to overwhelm it," according to the report. External threats include environmental changes and development on land adjacent to national parks, among others.

The report cautions that the service does not have enough people to "combat invasive species, conduct proactive fire management programs, mitigate land-use abuses that predate the establishment of parks and create a safe environment for visitors."

The report calls for additional law enforcement staff as well as better maintenance for cultural resources.

In Utah, the report includes Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Canyonlands National Park in its assessment.

National Parks Conservation Association Senior Vice President Ron Tipton said Utah's parks were above average in the natural resources criteria but on the lower end for cultural resources.

"That's not good news," Tipton said.

Park-system-wide, the report found that "failure to recognize the value of our national parks' cultural resources and fund their protection is eroding the story of America's people, democracy and cultural history," according to the report.

Gerry Gaumer, National Park Service spokesman, said the agency "always appreciates" the input from the NPCA and their report "pegged the way it is."

Gaumer said the lack of resources and personnel has been an ongoing problem but that the Park Service is doing a good job working with what it has.


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