Park Service Pursues Corporate Research Pacts – Bio-Prospecting Partnerships Pose Ethical and Conservation Conflicts

Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Press Release, January 22, 2013

The National Park Service (NPS) has unveiled detailed plans for licensing agreements with corporations developing products from park resources. This public-private profit sharing gives park managers direct and powerful incentives to commercially harness park resources, according to public comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Today marks the end of public comment on a Director’s Order spelling out corporate research partnership policies and a 176-page Benefits-Sharing Handbook detailing steps park managers must follow. These are the product of a more than six-year regulatory effort by NPS to designate parks as “federal laboratories.”

The policies primarily target bio-prospecting enterprises which produce commercial products from the DNA, enzymes, bacteria or other micro-organisms collected from national parks. The agency estimates that tens of thousands of scientific journal articles and reports are generated from NPS research permits.

Under “benefits-sharing agreements,” the park would share some of the profits generated from research or discoveries made using park collections, organisms or resources. Funds would be used to supplement park budgets. As PEER points out in its comments, safeguards against abuse are limited in that –

– Park managers will have to give corporations incentives to induce them to sign away more than a nominal amount of profits;
– The agreements’ financial terms are treated as confidential trade secrets beyond public scrutiny; and
– The Order erects a “firewall” to prevent collusion in administering research permits to benefit a corporate partner. This firewall, however, stops at the desk of the park superintendent who signs off on both the permits and the benefits-sharing agreements.

See also:
View new Director’s Order and Benefits-Sharing Handbook
Read the PEER comments
Trace developments of Park Service/corporate benefits-sharing
Look at National Park Service corporate fundraising strategy