A Deferred Effort to Restore National Park Funding
NPCA continues to advocate to Congress and the Administration that our national parks reach their full potential as extraordinary places that preserve our American history, culture, and natural wonders. In order to reach this potential, our national parks need the necessary tools and support after years of declining budgets.
In 2007, NPCA brought to the attention of the George W. Bush Administration and members of Congress that our national parks were suffering from an annual operating shortfall of more than $800 million. That shortfall meant that parks were suffering from disrepair and park rangers were scarce. There was bipartisan agreement that our national parks were in trouble so a multi-year bipartisan effort began to restore funding for park operations, the account that funds rangers and other staff critical to protecting and maintaining resources and serving visitors. The proposed support also included a matching grants program, the Centennial Challenge, to fund signature projects that would help reduce the deferred maintenance backlog that is causing park facilities to suffer from disrepair.
When the campaign to increase funding began, the goal was to ensure our national parks would be fully funded by the time of the Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016. Unfortunately, recent budget cuts and budgetary constraints have stalled efforts to provide these more significant investments.
Looking to the Future
Our national parks need our help. With the National Park System’s Centennial approaching in 2016, our parks should be living up to their potential, not threatened with the possibility of disrepair, looting, vandalism, development and other threats that can accompany underfunding. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to see that our national parks are fully ready for their second century of service to the American people.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposed a multi-year Centennial Initiative that seeks to restore some needed funding for national parks, pending support from Congress. The proposal includes a small increase of $30 million for park operations through the standard appropriations process that in which Congress engages annually. That funding would be used to expand volunteer opportunities, engage and hire youth and veterans, and modestly restore some of the day-to-day maintenance that has been lost over the years.
The initiative also includes a significant investment of more than a billion dollars over three years. A portion of that proposal is to ensure more adequate, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which protects parks from incompatible development. A second and critically needed investment would provide more than $700 million over three years to address the most crucial projects in the $11.3 billion deferred maintenance backlog that has built up over the years due to insufficient funding.
A final, invaluable proposal seeks to build on the Bush-era Centennial Challenge, a matching grants program that invites individuals, foundations, businesses, and other private-sector organizations to match federal investments to support signature programs and projects in national parks. The Obama Administration’s Centennial Initiative proposed private contributions of at least $100 million annually, matched by $100 million in federal funds. Please see NPCA’s Centennial Challenge Fact Sheet for more information.
This robust budget proposal requires the support of Congress through the annual appropriations process and—critically—legislation that would provide the mandatory funds to better prevent development in parks, substantially address the deferred maintenance backlog, and establish robust funding for the Centennial Challenge program. NPCA continues to push for this congressional support.
What can you do?
If you are already an NPCA member or supporter, send this letter of support to your members of Congress. If you are not a member, then, join our list of supporters so that we can call on you to contact decision-makers at critical moments in the legislative process on national park funding and other important issues.
You can also call or write your senators and representative. Tell them you don’t want to see national parks funding cut further. Tell them why you love national parks, and that you want to ensure we have sufficient rangers to protect our national treasures and to guide the millions of visitors who are helping create jobs in park gateway communities. You can look up your elected officials below:
With your help, we can ensure that in 2016, our national parks are in a condition to be proud of as we look towards a second century of protecting our heritage.
Last Updated: July 1, 2014