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In the spirit of nominating a charity that I look at like a good investment, I would like to submit the National Park Trust. I have had the privilege of getting to know the people who have dedicated their professional time and volunteer efforts to ensuring that our children, and our children's children have the opportunity to experience the breathtaking beauty of our national parks through the purchase of property critical to the viewscapes we have all come to assume are safe from development and destruction forever (when unfortunately they are not).

I personally was very fortunate to have some money to designate for donation to a charity of my choice a few years ago and after extensive research, I decided that the National Park Trust was an undiscovered gem doing critical work worthy of my investment. I must say I have been delighted with the return on that investment. They used the donation to acquire acres of critical habitat that has been added to National Park Service for preservation and enjoyment by the public in perpetuity. If NPT hadn't stepped in at the right moment, the view from the park would have been ruined forever.

I have seen a number of other, very worthy organizations nominated on this board. They all sound good. And when you see all tragedy around us, perhaps saving America's parks doesn't sound very urgent. But they are a very important part of our country's heritage, and if we don't pay attention to what's happening to them, they'll be lost.

America's national system of parks, wildlife refuges and historic monuments has been called “America's greatest invention.” The concept of national parks started first in this country and the idea has been copied around the globe. Few other things evoke the grandeur of this country as much as our national parks, and nowhere else in the world are a country's natural resources as treasured as in the United States.

As David Gardner said, the Foolish charity can lay legitimate claim toward being epic in its grandeur, in the grandeur of its idea and of its mission. NPT certainly does so. Nothing evokes the grandeur of our country better than our national parks and monuments.

Millions of people enjoy them each year for recreation - camping, picnicking, fishing and backpacking in the hundreds of canyons, deserts, forests, swamps and lakes. And from the Civil War battlefields in the East to the redwood forests in the West, kids and families visiting them get a priceless education about America's history and its natural wonders.

But in ways that most of us aren't even aware of, our parks, wildlife refuges and historic monuments are in danger. For instance, across the country, more than six million acres inside or adjacent to national parks, wildlife preserves and historic sites threaten the quality – or very existence – of our parkland treasures. Imagine someone proposing a hotel at the edge of Gettysburg, in view of where thousands of soldiers died in battle. Or someone holding a piece of land in the middle of a park wanting to sell it for condominiums. It has happened.

So preserving and protecting our wonderful natural resources is essential, and it requires an enormous and continuing effort. NPT, a relatively small but vital organization, provides an opportunity for people to help. It is the only land conservancy dedicated to preserving America's entire national system of parks, wildlife refuges and historic monuments.

Since 1983, NPT has acquired and protected hundreds of properties - and made it possible for them to be turned over to the national parks, national wildlife refuges, historical monuments and state parks for people to enjoy long into the future. For instance:

In Alaska - at Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, NPT preserved and turned over to the National Park Service land within the park that had been proposed for an exclusive privately owned hunting lodge.

In Florida - at Big Cypress National Preserve, NPT preserved 100 acres of prime habitat for the endangered Florida panther.

In Maryland - at the C&O Canal National Historic Park, NPT purchased a 30-acre island on the Potomac River, preserving the historic view shed.

In Georgia - at the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, NPT purchased the final three properties needed to complete the park in time for the 1996 Olympics.

In California - at Sequoia National Park, NPT acquired the famous White Chief Mine, saving the wilderness area from threatened commercial development.

In the U. S. Virgin Islands – at Virgin Islands National Park, NPT recently purchased a beautiful black sand beach that protects the shoreline of a National Marine Sanctuary. NPT is donating this land to the National Park Service for permanent protection.

Amazingly, NPT at one time even owned a national park. It is the only not-for-profit organization in the United States ever entrusted by Congress to do so. In 1994 NPT purchased almost 11,000 acres of pristine tallgrass prairie. Hundreds of bird and plant species and more than 30 types of mammals were protected for future generations.

NPT intended to transfer ownership of the Preserve immediately to the National Park Service. However, in the legislative battle to create the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the National Park Service was prohibited from owning more than 180 acres of the Preserve. For over a decade, therefore, NPT supported the payments and upkeep of the Preserve. This was an enormous commitment for an organization of NPT's size.

Sometimes NPT's role is not to buy land but to provide advice and assistance to other groups that helps them accomplish a goal. NPT's experience and expertise are well known:

In Florida, NPT has been facilitating a difficult negotiation in Big Cypress National Preserve to protect 12,000 acres in the heart of the Preserve that have been devastated by swamp buggies, poachers and squatters, and at the same time make other lands available for public education uses.

In Kentucky, at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, NPT gave a $10,000 grant to a small citizen's preservation group in Kentucky to hold an option on an important piece of property adjacent to Lincoln's home while they raised the funds necessary to acquire it.

In California, a state agency wanted to donate a fish hatchery to a national park, but was prohibited by law from paying the necessary legal fees. NPT handled the fees, and the hatchery and surrounding lands are now park of the park.

I think NPT's role will only become more important in the future. As federal funds for land acquisition and parks protection continue to decline, NPT will step in. NPT is developing new and creative ways of assisting the national parks to find adequate funds for upkeep of current lands and purchase of new areas. NPT, always flexible to meet changing needs, is also increasing its work with cities and states to expand the nation's parklands on the local and regional level.

It offers expertise to groups that lack land acquisition experience and guides them through local, state and federal bureaucracies. In providing advice and counsel for land management, conservation easements and revenue generation, NPT's valuable insights and creativity have proven extraordinarily effective at helping groups across the country protect parklands and wilderness areas in their regions. For example:

In Oklahoma, NPT is providing support and strategic advice to local groups striving to save the Lake Atoka Forest, the largest area of old-growth forest in the eastern United States. The forest offers great opportunities for environmental research and education, and provides essential habitat for endangered and migratory birds. It is also important because it is the traditional land of the Native American Caddo Nation.

In the East, NPT is helping a Quaker community that owns over a thousand acres adjacent to a national parkland devise unique new approaches to protecting their lands while also providing programs for disabled children's environmental education.

NPT is working with citizens in West Virginia to take the first steps toward a new national park at Blackwater Falls. Such a park will not only protect an important wilderness area, but also bring important economic benefits to a struggling region.

NPT is working with private citizen groups in Montana to protect Yellowstone National Park's wild free roaming buffalo and to save the buffalo calving grounds.

Behind NPT are the people who make NPT's work possible – the thousands of members who know and value the work that NPT has been doing for over two decades. Individuals in every state contribute $5, $25, $50 or $100 to enable NPT to move with speed and agility. Their role in NPT's success is crucial because NPT accepts no government grants or contracts.

NPT also benefits from the extensive time given freely by volunteers who are experts in land acquisition and management, species protection and other conservation issues. With their assistance, NPT leverages every dollar many times over to protect our nation's priceless national parklands. Its finances are transparent, and its financial statements are always available.

NPT has been and will continue to be at the very heart of our nation's effort to preserve, protect, and enhance America's natural heritage. I support it wholeheartedly and hope you will, too.

Contact Information

More information about National Park Trust can be found on its website at Or contact Paul C. Pritchard, President, at or 301-279-7275.

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