|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||February 4, 2008|
|Contact:||Andrea Keller Helsel, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 202-454-3332|
National Parks Conservation Association Calls on Congress to Improve Proposed Parks Budget
Strong Increase to Parks' Operating Budget Undercut By Significant Reductions to Land Acquisition, Construction
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nation’s leading voice for the national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), today praised the Administration’s $161-million proposed operating increase for national parks, while criticizing cuts to other critical park programs that undermine this much-needed operating increase.
“The $161-million operating increase is an important step toward restoring our national parks, but cutting other critical Park Service funding will impede these efforts to fully restore the park system by its 2016 centennial,” said National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan.
The National Parks Conservation Association is concerned that continuing to cut overall spending in the Department of the Interior will ultimately thwart efforts to restore the parks by their 2016 centennial. The overall fiscal year 2009 Interior budget is down $388 million or 3.5 percent from the current enacted level.
The Administration’s overall fiscal year 2009 budget request for the National Park Service is approximately $2.4 billion—an increase of only $14 million over the current fiscal year 2008 budget. The overall parks budget includes a $161-million increase for the annual operating needs of the parks, which importantly includes $100 million over fixed costs for the second year in a row. Unfortunately, the $172 million total proposed for construction is down $46 million from the current enacted budget, and is half of what the parks got five years ago—further diminishing the Park Service’s ability to address the multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog.
“We sincerely appreciate Secretary Kempthorne’s continued and important efforts to invest in the annual needs of the parks, as this enables the National Park Service to put rangers back into America’s parks to take care of these natural and cultural treasures and inspire visitors,” said Kiernan. “But this much-needed operating budget increase must not come at the expense of other important park programs. Our nation’s heritage should not be compromised.”
The Administration’s budget request also includes less than $21 million for the Park Service to purchase land within park boundaries that may be threatened by development. This reduces the current $44-million budget for Park Service land acquisition by more than half, and would be the smallest appropriation in recent history for this critical need. The National Parks Conservation Association is seeking nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2009 to purchase vulnerable, priority lands within park boundaries.
The Administration’s overall budget request for parks also cuts funding for historic preservation and outreach and recreational programs in the national parks.
“We’ll be working with Congress to improve on these cuts as they did last year, and continue the momentum started by Sec. Kempthorne and Congress to restore our national parks by their centennial,” said Kiernan. “Taking care of our national parks should be a national priority.”
As the Salt Lake Tribune editorialized on January 30, 2008, “Congress needs to look at park funding as an investment in our future and in our economy… It’s time to make the commitment, meet the challenge, and restore the luster to the crown jewels.”
# # #