|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||October 31, 2013|
|Contact:||Alison Zemanski Heis, Senior Media Relations Manager National Parks Conservation Association P: 202-454-3332; C: 202-384-8762|
Interior Secretary Jewell Calls on Congress to Invest in National Parks and Public Lands
National Parks Group Calls for Renewed Commitment to National Parks
Statement by Theresa Pierno, Acting President for the National Parks Conservation Association
“With less than three years before the centennial of our National Park System, we agree with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell that Congress should adopt a rational budget that recognizes the value of national parks, conservation and their economic contribution to communities nationwide. We also agree that there is a need to improve the balance between conservation and energy development on our public lands and to continue to protect important new natural and cultural areas as national monuments.
“Secretary Jewell’s strong statements on the value of conservation to our nation and to our future are welcome, and should be heeded. The secretary was correct that, in the wake of the federal government shutdown, the real test of congressional support for national parks, park visitors, and local park economies will be the outcome of the budget conference now occurring between the House and Senate. The administration’s response to that conference and the president’s budget proposal for FY 2015 will also be tests. The National Parks Conservation Association calls on Congress to end the mindless sequester cuts and restore critically needed investments in our national parks and public lands. We also call on the administration to propose a budget for FY 2015 that takes meaningful, bold steps to restore and renew our national parks and ready them for their second century.
“Over the last three years, the budget to operate our national parks has been cut by 13 percent in today’s dollars. National parks across the country–from Yellowstone to Shenandoah—were forced to make serious cuts to an already dwindling budget when the sequester went into effect; nearly 2,000 fewer rangers and other staff in our national parks and closed signs at visitor centers, restrooms, picnic areas and campgrounds.
“During some of our nation’s most difficult times, our national parks have played a pivotal role in putting Americans to work and contributing to a better future. In fact, many national parks were first protected during such times, and Americans were mobilized through conservation corps and other means, with tremendous lasting benefits to society. Our 401 national parks from the peak of Mt. Rainier to the beaches of Cape Cod are treasured by Americans nationwide. The enormous public outcry surrounding the closure of our national parks during the government shutdown showed how critical parks are for local economies, how much Americans love and support them, and the bipartisan support for keeping parks open to serve visitors. And now we must do more than just keep parks open. We must ensure they are well funded, better protected from development and other threats to their air, land, water, and wildlife, and that conservation needs are balanced against energy development.
“National parks are increasingly threatened by a massive expansion of energy development within their surrounding landscapes, much of it occurring on adjacent federal lands. The new Secretarial Order signed today recognizes the administration needs to do more to balance energy production against the protection of our air, land, water, wildlife and treasured places. We applaud the secretary for taking this step and hope that its implementation will lead to stronger protections for our national parks.
“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 move beyond the shutdown, we urge Congress and the administration to work together to restore common sense to what has been a broken budget process for far too long.”