President's Budget Shortchanges National Parks

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   February 2, 2004
Contact:   Andrea Keller, NPCA, 202-454-3332


President's Budget Shortchanges National Parks

Washington, D.C. - Although the administration’s proposed fiscal 2005 budget, released today, increases funding for the national parks, it does not fully meet the president’s pledge to ‘restore and renew’ America’s national parks and shortchanges day-to-day park needs, according to a budget analysis by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

“This budget illustrates the president’s personal dedication to the national parks, but does not fully deliver on his promises,” said NPCA President Thomas Kiernan.

George W. Bush announced his commitment to the national parks when running for the presidency in 2000. When launching the National Parks Legacy Project in 2001, which pledged $4.9 billion over five years to eliminate the backlog of park maintenance projects and for the “upkeep of these national treasures,” President Bush said, “The federal government has a clear responsibility for the national parks. In recent years, that obligation has sometimes been neglected. Many parks have lacked the resources they need for their basic care and maintenance. My administration will restore and renew America’s parks.”

Although the administration’s proposed increases to park operations and cyclic maintenance are a step in the right direction, when coupled with a decrease in funding for construction and greater demands on park budgets, this budget will actually limit the ability of the Park Service to meet critical day-to-day needs and eliminate the backlog of park maintenance projects as per the president’s campaign pledge.

According to National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, every time the nation goes to orange alert, the Park Service spends an additional $65,000 a day protecting America’s beloved icons. In fact, the Statue of Liberty remains closed because of insufficient funding for safety upgrades. Homeland security, rising inflation, cost-of-living increases for federal employees, privatization studies, and other expenses are eroding the budgets of the parks — compromising the “basic care” of our national heritage and limiting the Park Service’s ability to educate and inspire millions of visitors.

Research in more than 60 parks has revealed that on average, national parks are operating with only two-thirds of the needed funding — an annual shortfall in excess of $600 million.

At Death Valley National Park, only 64 percent of needed staff positions are funded, crippling law enforcement and other park-protective functions. More than 16,000 people a day were denied the opportunity to participate in ranger-led education programs this September at Yellowstone National Park because of insufficient staff and funding. Historic structures and archaeological sites are deteriorating at Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton, and Glacier national parks, and Bandelier National Monument. Wildlife is dwindling in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. The Park Service doesn’t even have a geologist or volcanologist on staff to monitor Mount Rainier in Washington — an active volcano popular with mountain climbers.

In a letter to the president last month, the 350-member coalition of Americans for National Parks, led by NPCA, requested an increase of $240 million in the fiscal year 2005 operating budget of the national parks. The coalition, which includes chambers of commerce, private businesses, government municipalities, park friends groups, and tourism and trade associations, said, “a strong request for the parks’ operating and maintenance budget is critical to meeting the promise of the National Parks Legacy Project. We urge you to work with Congress to provide the significant additional financial resources necessary to accomplish your stated goal.”

A new National Parks Caucus has been formed in the House of Representatives by two champions of increased funding for the national parks: Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.). The bipartisan caucus currently has 21 members, including several members of the House leadership.

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