Benefits-Sharing in the National Parks
Environmental Impact Statement
The NPS Mission and Bioprospecting
The NPS Mission:
The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.
The Natural Resource Challenge: Parks for Science: The long-term preservation of park natural resources makes parks reservoirs of information of great value to humanity. Thus, in addition to the use of science as a means to improve park management, parks can and should be centers for broad scientific research and inquiry. Research should be facilitated in parks where it can be done without impairing other park values. Grants, logistical support, cooperative studies, and other means of facilitating this wider role should be instituted within, or near, a network of parks broadly representative of regional systems. These programs should be developed and operated in collaboration with universities and other science organizations.
Director's Order 55, Interpreting the National Park Service Organic Act:
The "fundamental purpose" of the national park system, established by the Organic Act and reaffirmed by the General Authorities Act, as amended, begins with a mandate to conserve park resources and values. The fundamental purpose of all parks also includes providing for the enjoyment of park resources and values by the people of the United States. The "enjoyment" that is contemplated by the statute is broad . It also includes deriving benefit (including scientific knowledge) and inspiration from parks, as well as other forms of enjoyment.
Bioprospecting can sometimes be a consequence of an academic science project. Clearly, such serendipitous bioprospecting is allowed and even encouraged by federal law and NPS policy. Other bioprospectors have a clear goal such as discovering a new medicine or a new enzyme or other useful compound. Targeted bioprospecting is also allowed in the NPS since it is a part of broad scientific inquiry.
HARVESTING IS NOT ALLOWED. A wide range of scientific inquiry is encouraged and permitted as long as it will not lead to adverse impacts on park resources or values.
BIOLOGICAL MATERIAL IS NEVER SOLD to researchers, nor may they acquire ownership rights in any other way. Just as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant permittees license to use biological materials acquired from NIH in exchange for certain negotiated benefits without transfer of ownership, park research permits do not grant any exclusive or propriety rights to the researcher.
A Bioprospector Contributes to the National Park Service Mission, an example:
Diversa Corporation is a biotechnology company that develops new technologies to discover and modify genes (DNA) from many environmental sources including Yellowstone National Park. Diversa develops new enzymes and other biologically active compounds used by pharmaceutical, agricultural, chemical processing, and industrial businesses. In 1999, as part of a benefits-sharing agreement, Diversa Corporation used their expertise in DNA analysis to develop a pedigree for the endangered Yellowstone wolves at no charge to the federal government. This was the first pedigree ever established for a wild wolf population.
Yellowstone National Park could not have afforded to pay for this work, which today helps park managers better understand the dynamics of the wolf population. The pedigree allows biologists to accurately assess the genetic health of the park's wolves and permits identification of any that are illegally killed. In addition, the pedigree will enable biologists to detect when wolves from other areas, such as Idaho or northwest Montana, immigrate to Greater Yellowstone. Finally, using the Yellowstone wolf pedigree, scientists have documented for the first time wolf pups breeding in the wild.