Just before the end of 2014, National Park Trust (NPT) received word of an extraordinary bequest of $500,000 from John Michael Kauffmann, a longtime NPT supporter. John, 91, passed away peacefully in November at his home in Maine. He served for many years as a park planner for the National Park Service (NPS). In that role, he assisted in the establishment of the C & O Canal National Historical Park and the Cape Cod National Seashore. In 1972, NPS relocated John to Alaska to study areas under consideration for designation as national parks, monuments, and reserves. His work contributed to the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, (ANILCA), permanently conserving more than 100 million acres.
According to Dick Ring, NPT’s Park Projects Director who served as the first superintendent of Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, “John’s extraordinary vision and insight led to the creation of the park as the country’s benchmark wilderness. His efforts were instrumental in shaping the park’s purposes: to maintain the wild and undeveloped character of the area and provide opportunities for visitor recreation characterized by solitude, discovery, challenge, and self-‐reliance while experiencing the natural environmental integrity and scenic beauty of the central Brooks Range.”
His estate has instructed that the bequest be used for park land acquisition in a manner that honors the legacy of John’s mentor, Ben Thompson, former NPS Assistant Director for Resource Planning. Thompson, a close colleague of George Wright, was a University of California biologist. In the 1930’s, he accompanied George Wright and Joseph Dixon on the first wildlife surveys of the national parks and subsequently helped to establish the program of Biological Research and Management in NPS.
Mike Soukup, Director of Science at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia and member of NPT’s Leadership Council, stated, “Ben Thompson was a pioneer in establishing the essential role for science in protecting park resources while making them accessible to the public. Thompson understood early on that national parks must develop a professional level of understanding of their resources in order to achieve that difficult mission. That legacy is all the more important in today’s changing landscape.”
Denis Galvin, former Deputy Director of NPS added, “Thompson made substantial contributions to Mission 66, a decades-‐long (1956 to 1966) program that is remembered for its comprehensive rehabilitation of the infrastructure of the national parks.”
In the coming year, the Trust will be working closely with John Kauffmann’s estate and NPS to identify and protect important property in the National Park System that pays tribute to the outstanding contribution and legacies of two pillars in the NPS family: John Kauffmann and Ben Thompson.
NPT is honored to be the recipient of this legacy gift and would welcome additional gifts in honor of John and Ben to enhance and increase the impact of the Kauffmann bequest. To learn more about this opportunity and others to benefit our national parks, contact Grace Lee, NPT executive director at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-‐279-‐7275, ext 14.