Coburn Report Misses the Mark on Long-Term Solution for Funding America's National Parks

Date:   October 29, 2013
Contact:   Shannon Andrea, Director of Media Relations,National Parks Conservation Association Cell: 202-365-5912

Coburn Report Misses the Mark on Long-Term Solution for Funding America's National Parks

Washington, D.C. - As national parks and communities nationwide recover from the economic loss and harmful impacts of the government shutdown, U.S. Senator Coburn (R-OK) today released a new report, Parked: How Congress’ Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Treasures, that highlights the need for Congress to address the nearly $12 billion National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog. However, it fails to provide a sound analysis or demonstrate genuine understanding of the National Park Service budget, while offering solutions that would instead further harm our national treasures. 

After analyzing the report, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) emphasizes that addressing the funding shortfall for national parks should not be done by cutting the Park Service budget further.  We argue that the report bases its recommendations on an inherently flawed analysis of the NPS budget in concluding that the best way to improve the parks budget is to cannibalize it.

“The decline of funding for national parks over the last decade is a symptom of the failed congressional budget process--the same one that produced the shutdown.  We need a long-term solution: a sustained investment that will protect our national parks for the future,” said Theresa Pierno, acting president of National Parks Conservation Association.

Congress has been disinvesting in our parks for years.  National parks amounted to 1/8th of one percent in 1982 and have seen their share of the federal budget decline to 1/15th of one percent.  Over the past three years, the budget to operate national parks has been cut by 13 percent, or $315 million in today's dollars. Additionally, over the last decade, the Park Service construction budget has declined by nearly 70 percent in today's dollars. Continuous cuts have forced national park superintendents to delay the opening of parks or park roads; close visitor centers, picnic areas, and campgrounds; and decreased the number of rangers who protect and maintain parks.

“The Senator has managed to produce 200 pages about the National Park Service maintenance backlog without any actual analysis of the maintenance backlog or its true causalities.  We agree Congress and the administration are complicit in the problem, but strongly disagree on the concept of undermining other important park investments in order to finally get back to maintaining park infrastructure. Unfortunately, his paper is long on rhetoric and short on insightful financial analysis or viable solutions," said Craig Obey, NPCA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.

For FY14, the Senate offered an Interior Appropriations bill that would restore Park Service funding by 10 percent, or nearly $250 million, to pre-sequester levels. NPCA shares Senator Coburn’s concern about the deferred maintenance backlog, but says the most effective and rational solution to addressing the Park Service’s fiscal troubles would be to work with his colleagues to support funding levels in the Senate Interior appropriations bill, and work on other means to supplement funding outside the normal appropriation process. If passed, the Senate bill will not be sufficient to address the long-term budget needs of our national parks, but it would help begin the recovery from the damaging sequester and other recent cuts.

“Senator Coburn's report recommends more cuts to the National Park Service budget in order to pay for the backlog, but simple math shows that those proposed cuts would not meaningfully address the $12 billion maintenance backlog,” said Obey. “His approach is instead a damaging one that would hollow out our parks, equivalent to painting the exterior of a house, but nailing the door shut and throwing away the furniture.” 

During the 16-day government shutdown, local economies surrounding national parks lost nearly a half a billion dollars in visitor spending alone, businesses suffered, and too many people had their lives disrupted unnecessarily.  America's 401 national parks are economic engines that create more than $30 billion in private spending and support more than a quarter million jobs each year, and enjoy broad support among the American public. 

According to a recent poll, nine out of ten Americans--Republicans, Democrats and Independents--want and expect the federal government to keep national parks open, protected and funded.

“As we approach the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, Congress and the administration must pursue a genuine long-term solution that will keep our national parks fully open and adequately funded to serve visitors and protect our national heritage,” said Pierno.

For additional information about park funding needs, visit:



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