Administration Neglects Promise to Public, Parks

Date:   February 4, 2003
Contact:   Blake Selzer, NPCA, Legislative Analyst, 202-223-6722, extension 250

Administration Neglects Promise to Public, Parks

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The administration’s proposed fiscal year 2004 budget, released yesterday, fails to meet its repeated pledge to provide funding for the needs of the national parks, leaving the parks underfunded and in jeopardy, according to a budget analysis by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

“The administration is walking away from its commitment to the public and to our parks,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. “The president promised the American public that he would ‘restore and renew’ America’s national parks, but this budget makes it clear that the administration does not intend to keep that promise.”

During his campaign, President Bush announced a National Parks Legacy Project, which included $4.9 billion over five years for the “upkeep of these national treasures.” During a visit to Everglades National Park in June 2001, President Bush reinforced his concerns, saying, “Many parks have lacked the resources they need for their basic care and maintenance. My administration will restore and renew America’s national parks…” The pledge was reiterated in the administration’s budget proposal for the current fiscal year.

Instead, the limited funding increases provided in the administration’s 2004 budget do not help to meet the administration’s stated national park goals.

While recognizing the importance of funding the operations of the national parks as well as the accumulated backlog of maintenance needs, the administration nevertheless proposed what amounts to little more than a flat budget for park operations. The administration also proposed an additional $41 million for facility maintenance and construction and requested an increase for park transportation funding. However, both proposals falls well short of need and do not keep the administration on track for meeting the president’s commitment to “eliminate the maintenance backlog over five years” as stated numerous times over the past three years. The transportation proposal, in particular, falls more than $1 billion short of the amount the president pledged to provide over five years.

The administration proposed a much-needed $8.5 million increase for the Natural Resource Challenge, but the funding falls short of previous increases and is in fact, less than half of what the administration proposed last year.

At the same time that the administration touts its $4 million proposal for important land acquisition at Valley Forge National Historical Park, it cut the overall National Park Service land acquisition account in the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 12 times that amount, crippling the ability of the Park Service to protect the national parks from development and other threats.

Additionally, the administration’s renewed attempt to initiate the Cooperative Conservation program does little to boost park funding since Congress is not likely to adopt it and it merely inflates the administration’s proposed funding for park operations.

“The longer we make our national parks wait for critical operating funds, the greater the need becomes,” Kiernan said. “Congress and the administration need to work together to find the funds necessary to create a national parks legacy for future generations.”

Extensive research in more than 50 parks demonstrates that, on average, the national parks are operating with only two-thirds of the needed funding. As a result, park rangers are reduced in number, plant and wildlife species are dwindling, important archaeological sites are not being protected, public education programs are being reduced, and irreplaceable historic structures are crumbling.

The 320-member coalition of Americans for National Parks, led by NPCA, is working to increase the operating budget of the National Park Service by $600 million to protect park resources and the experiences of nearly 300 million visitors annually.


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