National Parks Community to Hold Dialogue on Securing Sustainable Funding Opportunities to Protect the Future of America’s National Treasures

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   March 18, 2013
Contact:   Shannon Andrea, National Parks Conservation Association, Phone: 202-365-5912; Email: sandrea@npca.org


National Parks Community to Hold Dialogue on Securing Sustainable Funding Opportunities to Protect the Future of America’s National Treasures

Washington, D.C. – With sequestration and general federal budget pressures threatening the National Park Service budget, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) will host a national dialogue about supplementary funding strategies for national parks on Tuesday, March 19 at 8:30AM at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The event will bring together political leaders and park advocates to identify new sustainable non-appropriated funding sources that can capitalize on bipartisan support for America’s treasured national parks.

“The Park Service budget has eroded by 15 percent over the last decade in today’s dollars even before accounting for sequestration. These cuts need to stop and we must find creative solutions that better address the funding needs of our national parks, visitors, and park-dependent businesses,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “As our national parks approach their centennial in 2016, taking actions now will help ensure America’s heritage is protected for visitors to enjoy in the future.”

As the official kick-off of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s 2013 Bridge-Builder Breakfast series, the parks community will gather to discuss recommendations for non-appropriated, supplementary, sustainable funding solutions for national parks. The list of knowledgeable speakers includes: Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), former Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, former Representatives Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN), and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and former Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman.
“We need to both challenge and empower the agencies caring for America’s national parks and other special places to develop sustainable plans to supplement traditional appropriations of general tax revenues. There are ways to sustain a strong system of national parks not only for the next few years but long into the future – and that is what we should be doing as the National Park Service turns 100 in 2016 and embarks on efforts to stay relevant and cherished for another 100 years,” said Derrick A. Crandall, counselor of the National Park Hospitality Association.
                      
National parks not only protect America’s heritage, they are economic engines that create  more than $30 billion in private spending and support more than a quarter million jobs each year. Yet, they continue to suffer from an annual shortfall of $500-$600 million in appropriated operations funding. As a result, national parks do not have enough rangers and staff to care for our national treasures and to serve park visitors; more than 90 percent of the cultural sites and artifacts in the Park System’s care are in fair or poor condition; and the backlog of needed maintenance of facilities and resources throughout the park system has reached upwards of $12 billion.

“The Bipartisan Policy Center is pleased to host this event as part of our ongoing Bridge-Builder Breakfast series.  Our national parks are truly our national treasures, and are supported by all Americans, regardless of party affiliation.  National parks also provide endless outdoor recreational opportunities to help us all achieve the healthy lifestyles that are so necessary to our well-being,” said Dan Glickman, senior fellow for the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. Representative, who will moderate a key panel at the session.

The event is expected to generate sound policy recommendations for lawmakers to consider, including alternative funding strategies such as:

1.   Increases in and Restructuring of Entrance Fees – A careful review of the NPS fee structure including national parks sites that do not currently charge fees, the cost of special passes such as the senior life-time pass, and the potential for added revenue from international visitors, with the goal of balancing the need for reasonably priced fees with the goal of recovering more of the cost for park services and facilities.   

2.   Increased Support from Highway Trust Fund (Penny for Parks) – The current 18.4 cent per gallon federal tax on motor fuel that supports the nation’s surface transportation program has been unchanged since 1993. The tax pays for $240 million in transportation projects in national parks annually, with the transportation portion of the NPS backlog exceeding $5 billion. Ninety percent of the nearly 10,000 miles of park roads are in fair to poor condition. An additional penny per gallon federal tax could generate $1.5 billion annually, which could be used to address the significant road and bridge maintenance backlog that exists in national parks and on other public lands.

3.   Flexible Matching Fund – Allow the NPS to stem the growth of its maintenance backlog by creating a “Park Legacy Fund” similar to the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) created under the Historic Preservation Act of 1976. Like the HPF, federal funds would be derived from revenue from oil, gas and other mineral production on federal lands and waters, with the added component of private philanthropic contributions similar to the Centennial Challenge that was partially implemented by the Bush Administration.

4.   Expanded Concessioner Activities – Concessioners now pay nearly $100 million annually in franchise fees on gross revenues of roughly $1.2 billion. Concessioners believe conversion of some jointly agreed NPS functions could reduce park expenses and add new franchise revenues.  Concession operated facilities comprise $1 billion of the $11 billion in needed infrastructure investments. Concessioners argue that longer contracts and changed regulations could produce 50 percent of the needed investments from concessioners.

Members of the press wishing to attend, please RSVP to press@bipartisanpolicy.org. Download the 16 papers on supplemental funding sources here: http://parkpartners.org/fundingparks.html. The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Watch the webcast live here: http://bipartisanpolicy.org/events/2013/03/building-more-sustainable-future-americas-national-parks.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA and its 750,000 members and supporters work together to protect our National Park System and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for our children and grandchildren. www.npca.org.

About the National Park Hospitality Association
The National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) is the national trade association of the businesses that provide lodging, food services, gifts and souvenirs, equipment rentals, transportation and other visitor services in the National Park System.  Concessioners have played an important role in creating lasting national park memories for more than 125 years.  Concessioners operate in more than 100 national park units with combined sales exceeding $1 billion annually and $70 million+ in franchise fees paid to the National Park Service.  The in-park concessioner workforce of some 25,000 persons assists visitors an estimated 100 million times annually. www.parkpartners.org.

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