401 National Parks

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TAKE ACTION: Tell your senators/representative we need responsible funding for our national parks--not another short-term solution.

TESTIMONY

Statement of John Garder, Director, Budget and Appropriations, National Parks Conservation Association

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Billions of reasons to protect them

See our coverage of the effects the broken federal budget process has had on national parks, including stats on the economic impacts to local communities, our latest blog stories, and other resources.

The National Park Service (NPS) has been crippled by compounded budget cuts over recent years. The budget to operate national parks has been cut by more than seven percent, or $180 million in today’s dollars, compared to just four years ago. Last year during the busy summer tourist season, national parks operated with approximately 1,900 fewer staff due to the more than $180 million cut in 2013 due to the damaging across-the-board “sequester” cuts.

This sequester cut forced our national park superintendents to delay the opening of parks or park roads; close visitor centers, picnic areas, and campgrounds; decrease the number of rangers to protect and maintain parks; and limit the number of educational programs. NPCA’s infographic and fact sheet (PDF) highlighted the impact of that damaging cut to parks across the country.

This year, some relief was provided from the damaging sequester cuts, but it has been insufficient to bring parks back to where they were, and where they need to be—especially in advance of their 2016 centennial.

Despite recently restored funds, the park service budget is still 9%, or nearly $250 million, below a decade ago in today’s dollars. National parks still suffer from an annual operations shortfall of more than a half-billion dollars.

These budget cuts cannot continue! There are BILLIONS of reasons to protect national parks, including the more than $27 billion in economic activity each year our parks return to the economy. Among the billions of other reasons:

Experience. Memories. History. For many, visits to national park units are the experience of a lifetime. The National Park Service oversees some of the most hallowed and historically important areas in the United States, including Civil War battlefields, the Lincoln Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, Revolutionary War sites, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, and hundreds more.

National, Bipartisan Support.  According to a recent poll, 9 out of 10 likely voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — agree that funding for our national parks should be held stable or increased. The recent budget cuts impacting parks is why nearly 300 businesses wrote Congress and the President in early 2013 expressing their concern.  It is also why, in the summer of 2013, both the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed resolutions in support of park funding. 

Jobs. Annually, the National Park Service employs over 20,000 people and oversees 221,000 volunteers who contribute about 6.4 million hours. However, this is just a fraction of the jobs that national parks support. In 2011, national parks generated 252,000 private-sector jobs nationwide. NPCA’s 2011 Made in America Report outlines these statistics and more.

Economic Generator. Annually, our national parks attract nearly 300 million visitors and support nearly $27 billion in private-sector spending, generating $10 in economic activity for every federal dollar invested. For more information on the economic benefits to local communities, see the report, 2012 National Park Visitor Spending Effects: Economic Contributions to Local Communities, States, and the Nation (PDF, 50 pages).

Education. In 2012, over 800,000 five to 13 year olds became Junior Rangers, joining over 220,000 WebRangers in promising to protect parks, learn about parks, and share their own ranger story with friends and family. Additionally, thousands of kids have earned a Junior Ranger badge for the Let’s Move Outside campaign, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative.

Tourism. Not only have nine out of ten Americans visited a national park, but one in five international visitors visits a park service unit during their stay in the United States. Forbes Magazine named four National Park Service units on their list of the top 10 U.S. tourist destinations: Golden Gate National Recreation Area (California), the National Mall and Memorial Parks (Washington, D.C.), Faneuil Hall (Massachusetts), and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee).

National parks provide a tremendous return on investment. National park tourists stay in travel destinations longer, visit more places, and are more likely to make return visits. National parks are a third of the 25 most popular travel destinations in the United States.

There are so many more reasons to invest in our national treasures. Share your reason and read other reasons at myparkstory.org.

National Parks Conservation Association
National Parks Conservation Association

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