|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||December 11, 2013|
|Contact:||Alison Zemanski Heis, Senior Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, Phone: 202.454.3332 or Cell: 202.384.8762|
Budget Proposal May Provide Some Hope for America’s National Parks
Statement by Craig Obey, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, National Parks Conservation Association
“The National Parks Conservation Association is encouraged by the proposed limited budget deal that helps reduce the damage that the broken budgeting process has been inflicting on our national parks. We applaud Chairwoman Murray for her leadership in significantly reducing the mindless sequester cuts that have been damaging to national parks and other appropriated programs, and Chairman Ryan for his good-faith effort to negotiate, as well as the other members of the Congressional Budget Conference Committee for their commitment to compromise. The budget deal opens the door for congressional appropriators to do a better job for America’s national parks, their visitors, and local economies, than has been the case in recent times, though this is not guaranteed.
“The budget agreement, though far from perfect, is much better than maintaining the full sequester levels this year and next, and likely will result in reinstating some rangers who were cut due to the sequester. However, our parks likely will continue to lack the ability to restore all the rangers they lost to the sequester and other cuts, and closed signs are likely to remain at park facilities—part and parcel of a slow motion shutdown for our national parks that cannot be sustained without irreparable damage. The imposed sequester cuts left 2,000 fewer rangers to protect and manage park resources, abruptly impacting the visitor experience by closing campgrounds, visitor centers and roads. The budget deal restores most of sequester cuts, but does not guarantee that the congressional appropriations committees will provide the resources the parks need to put needed rangers back in our parks and begin to address the maintenance backlog.
"It is difficult to overstate the importance of reversing recent budget trends to the future of our national parks and local economies. This agreement is a first step in reversing that process, but only a small, imperfect, tentative first step. In the near term, we urge leaders in Congress, especially appropriations committee members, to better address national park needs within the confines of the current budget deal. Over the long-term, however, there is no substitute for an additional compromise that gets at the real causes of our deficit and helps to grow the economy.
“The recent government shutdown and the outcry to reopen national parks from frustrated Americans across the country demonstrated the deep popularity of, and love for, our national parks. Bipartisan polling shows that 9 in 10 Americans, irrespective of political affiliation, agree that national park funding should not be cut further. The shutdown also showed how critical national parks are to local economies, with $10 in economic returns for every dollar invested. The 16-day shutdown of our parks cost our economy at least a half a billion dollars. National parks comprise just 1/15th of one percent of the federal budget and cost American taxpayers as little as a cup of coffee, yet they support more than $31 billion in annual spending and more than 250,000 jobs nationwide.
“As the National Park Service prepares for its centennial in 2016, we urge President Obama and Congress to leave a lasting legacy by proposing a robust investment in America’s national parks. An investment in this and next year ‘s budgets would help parks and economies recover from this damaging budget trend as they prepare for this historic occasion, putting rangers back on duty to greet visitors and to protect our historic treasures for future generations to enjoy.”