Congressional Hearing Examines Health of Florida National Parks

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   January 10, 2006
Contact:   Jason Bennis, NPCA, cell: 954-309-9308


Congressional Hearing Examines Health of Florida National Parks

Miami - At a congressional field hearing today at City Hall, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) expressed frustration about the critical funding needs of national parks in Florida. The hearing, hosted by Government Reform, Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Mark Souder (R-IN), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-18-FL), was the eighth in a series of congressional hearings to examine the funding needs of America’s national parks.

“Frankly, I am frustrated by the lack of congressional oversight and a lack of consistent funding to deal with all of the problems facing Florida’s national parks,” said NPCA National Council Member Nathaniel Reed, who was assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In its written testimony, NPCA raised concern about the funding shortages at Biscayne National Park and Florida Bay in Everglades National Park, and advocated for greater federal investment in the restoration of the Everglades and for funding to address hurricane damage to parks in the Gulf region, which is estimated to total $67 million.

Last week, NPCA released a comprehensive assessment of the health of Florida Bay. NPCA’s State of the Parks report revealed that a shortage of law enforcement staff and public education funding was hampering the National Park Service’s ability to stop careless boaters from running aground and ripping up the fragile seagrasses in Florida Bay.

NPCA called on Congress and the administration to increase the parks’ annual operations budget and pass the National Park Centennial Act. According to NPCA’s 2005 report,

Faded Glory: Top 10 Reasons to Reinvest in America’s National Park Heritage, the national parks are crippled by an annual funding shortfall is excess of $600 million and a backlog of maintenance needs estimated by the Congressional Research Service to range between $4.5 and $9.7 billion. The National Park Service also provided testimony today.

These congressional hearings are the first focused effort by Congress in decades to examine national park funding needs in-depth, and to identify solutions to meet the challenges. Information gathered during the hearings is being used by Rep. Souder to establish a comprehensive record of the needs of the nation’s parks. Chairman Souder held prior hearings in several cities including Seattle, Wash.; Phoenix, Ariz.; San Francisco, Calif.; Gettysburg, Penn., and Washington, D.C.

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