Park Service updates management policies

Proposed policy includes strict guidelines for approving construction projects.

As part of an effort to make better use of limited resources, the Park Service is implementing strict guidelines for approving facilities construction projects.

Under draft policy guidelines published Tuesday, the agency will undertake projects only if they address a priority need and if ongoing maintenance and operations costs are "known and can be sustained over time." The Park Service in the past has had difficulty putting a price tag on maintenance needs.

The guidelines, released in "Draft 2006 NPS Management Policies," also require project managers to ensure that donors are capable of coming up with promised funding. The review process will "ensure that projects are essential to the mission, achievable and sustainable," the draft policy stated.

"Building projects have too often involved facilities that may have exceeded minimum requirements," the policy document noted. "In many instances, the development of these facilities has affected the park's operational budget."

Park Service employees will be trained to use a system for tracking construction projects. Regional directors and superintendents will be held accountable for following the project approval policy.

The 2006 draft guidelines are designed to update the agency's policies on managing national parks to "improve their clarity and to keep pace with changes in laws, regulations, socioeconomic factors and technology." The last comprehensive update of park management policies was in 2001.

The Park Service will accept public comments on the plan through Jan. 19, 2006.