House Budget Woefully Inadequate for Parks

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 3, 2004
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332


House Budget Woefully Inadequate for Parks

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today said that the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee’s budget shortchanges the national parks, despite extensive reports in the media about visitor center closures, crumbling roads and trails, and other urgent park needs.

“The subcommittee’s hands were tied, resulting in a budget that is woefully inadequate for the national parks,” said NPCA Senior Vice President Ron Tipton. “This bill takes only baby steps where giant steps are needed.”

NPCA's Endangered Rangers report in March 2004 profiled the extensive impact of insufficient funding on the national parks, from visitor center closures in Olympic to reduced public education programs at Great Smoky Mountains.

The committee, recognizing that the national parks need additional funding for day-to-day operations, doubled the funding available for the base operating needs of the parks over the administration’s requested budget. The administration’s national parks budget for fiscal year 2005 included a $76 million increase for operations. The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee maintained the administration’s $76 million level, while increasing the portion of the operating budget that goes directly toward the parks’ base needs.

However, the House budget eliminates all land acquisition funding, including monies for projects such as the creation of a national park site to commemorate Flight 93 and expansion of Fort Clatsop to celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition. The administration had requested $84 million for National Park Service land acquisition.

In total, the House bill appropriates $93 million less than the administration requested, which was already insufficient to cover mandatory cost of living increases for dedicated park staff, never mind other needs.

Over the past three years, the parks have had to absorb $170 million of unfunded costs, such as homeland security expenses and cost of living increases, which should have been budgeted for and funded. These costs continue to erode national park budgets, which already suffer from an annual operating shortfall in excess of $600 million.

Earlier this month, 84 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 20 U.S. Senators signed bipartisan letters to their appropriations committees seeking an additional $240 million for national park operations in the fiscal year 2005 budget.

The House has two additional opportunities to increase the national parks’ budget: next week, the full House Appropriations Committee meets; floor action is likely the week after. The Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee marks up the bill next week.

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