Statement by Tom Martin, Executive Vice President, National Parks Conservation Association on Secretary Norton's Report on the National Park System

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   July 8, 2004
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332


Statement by Tom Martin, Executive Vice President, National Parks Conservation Association on Secretary Norton's Report on the National Park System

Washington, D.C. - “Secretary Norton believes that the national parks are in better condition today than they were three years ago, but proof otherwise is in the parks themselves. Instead of spinning the facts, the administration should focus on meeting the unmet needs of the individual parks that American families are visiting this summer.

"Although the administration promised to eliminate the maintenance backlog and provide adequate funds for the parks, there are fewer staff and fewer resources in parks across the country and in fact, the administration has provided only $662 million in new funding toward $4.9 billion worth of backlog maintenance needs.

"Olympic National Park, for example, has a $6 million annual shortfall. In a park that has 3,000 miles of rivers and streams and 3 million visitors annually, cutbacks in visitor center hours, interpretive programs, restroom cleanliness, and staff specialists such as biologists and backcountry rangers, can be devastating. According to the Seattle Times, the number of full-time permanent employees on staff has dropped from more than 200 in 2001 to 186 last year—its lowest since 1992. As the executive director of the nonprofit Washington Trails Association told The Olympian in June: “I don’t think the backlog [at Olympic] is immense—there is some. But Congress is not allowing park budgets to keep up with inflation, so it’s going to get worse.

"Sadly, the situation at Olympic National Park is not the exception, but rather the rule. Out of the 388 park sites, 241 parks will have less money under the administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 than they did last year, impacting visitor services and exacerbating the backlog of deferred maintenance needs.

"It would have been more helpful if the administration today had instead announced plans to:

  • Work with Congress to increase funding for base park operations for FY2005 by an additional $100 million,
  • Work with Congress to make the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program permanent for parks,
  • Work with Congress to pass the transportation bill, which, under the higher funding levels in the Senate version of the bill, would provide approximately $300 million annually for six years for the repair and maintenance of crumbling park roads and bridges,
  • Seek an additional $150 million for base park operations in the FY2006 budget.

"The administration has supported the Natural Resource Challenge, directing funding toward important invasive species and wildlife management programs, and has requested increased funding for maintenance of park roads in the transportation bill. But regrettably, neither the administration nor Congress has yet made much progress toward eliminating the backlog or ensuring that our national parks have the operating funds needed to educate and inspire visitors and protect the natural, cultural, and historic treasures in their care."

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