|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||November 29, 2004|
|Contact:||Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332|
Congress to Increase Funding for America's National Parks
“This week, we are an important step closer to restoring the luster to America’s crown jewels—the national parks,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “Congressional appropriators on both sides of the aisle deserve enormous credit. The leadership of Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), working in concert with Chairman Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), Chairman Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), resulted in a bipartisan effort to protect America’s shared heritage. We look forward to working with the administration and Congress in the coming years to fully meet the parks’ critical funding needs and fulfill the president’s national park legacy.”
The fiscal year 2005 Interior Appropriations bill contains an overall increase of $95 million for the National Park Service’s operating budget with significant, $75-million increase earmarked specifically for individual park budgets. In particular, the bill states that all 388 national park sites will receive, at a minimum, an increase of 5 percent for base operations. This brings the total National Park Service operating budget for fiscal year 2005 to $1.7 billion from $1.6 billion last year.
“This welcome investment in our parks is an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the problem. Congress clearly recognizes the importance of addressing the national parks’ $600-million annual operating shortfall,” Kiernan added.
The increased funding could help national parks such as Acadia, Olympic, and Yosemite avoid further cuts to educational programs and visitor services, and enable parks such as Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, Gettysburg, Dry Tortugas, and Death Valley to address threats to historic sites, wildlife, and cultural artifacts.
In May 20 senators and 84 representatives sent letters to the appropriators seeking increased funds to address the national parks’ crippling operating shortfall, now in excess $600 million annually. This summer, visitors to Olympic and Mount Rainier national parks sent 9,000 comments to their members of Congress, voicing concern for the critical funding needs of the national parks.
The fiscal year 2005 Interior Appropriations bill, which is coupled with several outstanding spending bills in an omnibus, is expected to go to the House and Senate floors for a vote this weekend. Congress may include an across-the-board cut in the overall omnibus bill, which would impact the Park Service’s budget.
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