National Parks Group Says Further Cuts in House Funding Bill Continue Unsustainable Course for Parks

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 28, 2012
Contact:   Shannon Andrea, Director of Media Relations, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3371; sandrea@npca.org


National Parks Group Says Further Cuts in House Funding Bill Continue Unsustainable Course for Parks

National parks again threatened by damaging funding and policy proposals

Washington, D.C.-- The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) says the House funding bill for Fiscal Year 2013 that passed through committee today continues a three year trend of eroding national park budgets and attaching damaging policy amendments that threaten national parks nationwide.

“The committee chose to pay the electric bill, but the gutters are clogged, the roof is leaking, and the foundation is starting to rot,” said Craig Obey, NPCA Senior Vice President for Government Affairs. “The core problem is that funding for the Interior bill is fundamentally insufficient to deal with basic needs, from maintenance to land protection to resource preservation.”

The House Interior Appropriations proposal for next fiscal year cuts spending for the National Park Service by another $134 million, or more than 5 percent, on top of a 6 percent decline in funding over the last two years. In addition, because funding has not been keeping up with the cost of doing business, this proposal means the parks will have also lost approximately $60 million in purchasing power in three years. “In today’s dollars, this bill would cut overall funding for the National Park Service by nearly 20 percent below what it was just two years ago,” said Obey. “Although the committee wisely steered the most severe cuts away from individual park budgets, funding at this level could reduce next year’s seasonal ranger presence by as many as 600 positions.  The cliff is coming sooner than people think.”

The bill also includes an 82 percent cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for the National Park Service, an account paid for through receipts from offshore drilling to enhance land conservation. “Without this fund, we would already have a housing development in the middle of Valley Forge, and we could soon see one in Grand Teton. The LWCF account in the Treasury is overflowing with money and it should be spent the way it was promised,” said Mr. Obey.

In addition to the continuing trend of annual cuts to national park funding, the Park Service is threatened with a drastic across-the-board budgetary cut, or “sequester” of an additional eight to ten percent. By current law, the sequester is scheduled to take place in January, triggered by the failure of the congressional “super committee” to agree to a more balanced strategy for reducing the deficit.

“When you analyze the last few years together with a potential across-the-board cut from a January sequester, the results could be disastrous. We know where this path leads, and it’s not a pretty future,” said Obey. “As budgets continue to erode, the parks will lose rangers and increasingly crumble into disrepair, and we’ll begin to see the closure of campgrounds, visitor facilities, and even entire parks,” said Obey.

“We respect that these are tight times, but the Interior appropriations bill and national parks have as much to do with the deficit as a sand pail has to do with creating a beach,” added Mr. Obey. “Until Congress and the White House agree on a long-term, balanced, deficit reduction deal, national parks and all other annually funded domestic priorities will continue to bear an unreasonable share of funding cuts,” Obey said. “Washington can prevent this, but time is running out.”

Funding cuts in the House bill were accompanied by several damaging policy amendments, or “riders” that would impact the air and water quality of national parks and the health of their visitors. These include efforts to undermine the scope of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction over certain protected waters, regulation of streams that can be impacted by pollution from surface coal mining, and amendments that would curtail efforts to improve air quality in national parks. “It’s a sign of a broken legislative process that controversial proposals like these are being shoved onto an appropriations bill,” added Mr. Obey.

Timing of consideration of the bill by the full House is unclear, but it is not expected to move to the House floor in the immediate future.  The Senate Interior subcommittee has yet to produce its version.

For more information on NPCA’s recent park funding report, “Made in America,” visit:  www.npca.org/protecting-our-parks/park-funding.

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