As a result of a U.S. District Court ruling in 1999, the National Park Service (NPS) has released a 340-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Benefits-Sharing programs in national parks. The U.S. District Court ruled that the NPS had to prepare a DEIS to define the costs and benefits to the different aspects of the mission of the NPS before continuing with benefits-sharing plans. The DEIS describes the Park Service's role in commercial research findings that are a direct result of research activities within a NPS unit (approximately 400 units across the country). Under existing law, the NPS has the legal capacity to enter benefits-sharing agreements with researchers who commercialize findings from park lands, but no rules or restrictons have been established for these benefits-sharing agreements.

The DEIS provides background information on research permitting and access to NPS units. It explicitly states that "Research activities may be conducted by any scientist who qualifies for an NPS research permit without regard to whether that scientist is affiliated with or funded by public or private sources." The proposed Benefits-Sharing program (Alternative B in the DEIS) would not influence the research permitting process, but rather, provide specific guidelines for researchers who identify commercial applications for work conducted in national parks. It still prohibits the use of "research specimens" for commercial use, but does allow for "research findings" to be used commercially. Potential researchers would continue to use their existing permits to conduct research on NPS land, but would have to identify potential commercial impacts of the work.

Public comments on the DEIS must be received by 15 December 2006. Comments can be submitted via the internet at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/. They can also be mailed to the address specified in the DEIS.

 


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