Congress Hears Parks' Funding Needs for Earth Day

Date:   April 22, 2005
Contact:   Kelli Holsendolph, NPCA, 202-454-3311

Congress Hears Parks' Funding Needs for Earth Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. - At a congressional hearing today about the funding needs of the national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) provided testimony on the shortage of interpretive rangers in the parks, the affects of funding on visitor safety, and the conditions of park roadways. The hearing, held in DC and hosted by Government Reform, Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Mark Souder (R-IN), was the second in a series of congressional hearings to be held over the next two years to examine the funding needs of America’s national parks.

“Over our 86-year history, NPCA has found that the most pervasive challenge facing America’s parks is the failure of successive congresses and presidential administrations to fund them adequately,” said Gretchen Long, current member and former chair of the NPCA board of trustees. “If recent funding trends continue, the picture will only worsen. The current proposed increase for fiscal year 2006 will likely lead to more service cutbacks in parks, unless Congress substantially increases funding above the president’s request.”

Specifically, NPCA called on Congress to increase the parks’ base operations budget by $100 million over the president’s request for fiscal year 2006; pass the National Park Centennial Act; provide $320 million per year for the Park Roads and Parkways Program in the transportation reauthorization bill; continue to encourage the philanthropic support of private citizens and organizations; and support and encourage the Park Service to expand business planning and implementation.

Rep. Souder, Chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over national parks, held the first field hearing on the parks last month in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Witnesses at that hearing testified about Gettysburg and other national parks in the region. With this second hearing members of Congress were provided with a nationwide perspective on the parks’ funding needs.

The National Park Service, the Office of Management and Budget, the National Park Foundation, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation also gave testimony today.

These congressional hearings are the first focused effort by Congress in decades to examine park funding issues in-depth, and to identify solutions to meet the challenges. Information gathered during the hearings is being used by Congressman Souder to establish a comprehensive record of the needs of the nation’s parks—one that mirrors and expands upon existing data gathered from other sources.

The National Parks Conservation Association’s latest report, Faded Glory: Top 10 Reasons to Reinvest in America’s National Park Heritage, brings attention to many of these challenges, including the need to address poaching and drug smuggling, repair unsafe roads and trails, and provide sufficient educational programs for school groups and park visitors at parks from Gettysburg to Yosemite.

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