California Business Leaders Calls on Congress, Appropriators to Bolster Economy by Adequately Funding National Parks

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   December 18, 2013
Contact:   Kati Schmidt, Senior Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association: 415.728.0840; Mobile: 415.847.1768


California Business Leaders Calls on Congress, Appropriators to Bolster Economy by Adequately Funding National Parks

Palm Springs, CA -- Leaders from more than 50 organizations and businesses surrounding Joshua Tree National Park banded together in a letter to Representative Paul Cook, urging for the leader to work with budget committee members and appropriators to ensure national park funding is restored, with a long-term emphasis on the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial. 

“I fell in love with Joshua Tree National park and opened my small business, which is driven by park visitors, in 1994.  During the two week government shutdown my business’ revenue dropped by 90%.  The recent shutdown, on top of years of underfunding our national parks, has a direct impact on the natural resources themselves, as well as businesses like mine.  I urge decision makers to think holistically on impacts inside and outside of our park boundaries when making funding decisions,” said Ethan Feltges, owner of Coyote Corner in Joshua Tree.

With the successful House passage and expected Senate approval of the budget deal, attention will now turn to congressional appropriators. 

“We know that there will be some challenges to appropriators the next couple of weeks but are hopeful that they will take the opportunity to resume a functional process that allows for investing in what’s popular and creates jobs - our national parks,” said David Lamfrom, Senior Desert Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “The letter to Representative Cook echoes tremendous support across the country from people who care about and financially depend upon our national parks. Now is the time for Congressional appropriators to begin restoring national park funding to the level it was before the last three years of damaging cuts. Adequate funding would help return at least 2,000 national park rangers positions that have recently been lost; reopen visitor centers that were temporarily closed like Mojave National Preserve’s Kelso Depot; and bolster visitor programs and other services within our national parks that directly relate to economic benefits outside of park boundaries.” 

While the government shutdown brought the economic importance of national parks to the public eye, the park service has experienced what can be likened to a slow-motion shutdown for years. National parks have suffered from a 13% reduction, in today’s dollars, to operating budgets over the past three years.

“One of the key economic drivers of Solstice Eco Building Supply and my work as an architectural designer and builder in the Morongo Basin is our proximity to Joshua Tree National Park.  People from all over the world are drawn to the park’s natural wonders and some of them decide to build their dream home, rennovate or purchase property nearby.   It’s essential that Joshua Tree National Park receive adequate funding by their Centennial in 2016 so that they can protect natural resources and archaeological sites; provide educational programs and maintain good roads and clean facilities.  The bottom line is that there is a direct relationship between the health of the Joshua Tree National Park and the area’s economic vitality,” said Nicholas Holmes, architectural designer and owner of Solstice Eco Building Supply Company in Joshua Tree.

The business owners are not alone in their sentiment of the value that national parks bring to local economies.  Polling data released last week by the Vet Voice Foundation, indicated that 86% of those polled in the California desert agreed that closing national parks and public lands during the government shutdown hurt small businesses and the desert economy. 

Such polling data is backed up by tremendous visitation to national parks in the California desert, which are visited by individuals throughout the country and around the world. In 2012, park service data shows that visitors to Death Valley National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and Joshua Tree National Park spent nearly $100 million in desert gateway communities.
 

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Note: Business owners are available for additional comment, if interested.

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