Thomas C. Kiernan
National Parks Conservation Association
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
U.S. House of Representatives
April 3, 2003
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is the only national, nonprofit conservation organization that advocates exclusively for the national parks. Through public education, advocacy, and citizen outreach, NPCA works to protect, preserve, and enhance America's National Park System for present and future generations.
NPCA is pleased to share its views regarding the programs in the Department of Interior's budget that affect national park resources and requests that this statement be included in the hearing record for the Fiscal Year 2004 Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill. We appreciate the opportunity to share with you our priorities for funding and respectfully request the Committee consider these views as the FY04 budget is shaped.
National Park Service Operations
A top priority for NPCA in the budget of the National Park Service is to significantly increase funding for the operations of the Park Service. NPCA requests an increase of $178 million over the current FY03 spending levels, $102 million above the president's request, for a total of $1,733,351,000 in fiscal year 2004 for the operation of the National Park System.
NPCA greatly appreciates your leadership and commitment to our national parks, demonstrated in the increase of $118.5 million that the Committee provided for park operations and the House passed in the FY 2003 Interior appropriations process. As you know, this funding increase was unfortunately significantly reduced in the final 2003 omnibus appropriations act.
As you know, park operational funding continues to lag behind the need. This situation is further aggravated by homeland security needs, which have put increased pressure on park budgets and staffing. For example, many park rangers have been reassigned to security detail at icon and border parks, leaving their visitor interpretation and resource protection duties unmet. In addition, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella recently stated that added security expenditures since the Code Orange alert are anticipated to cost the national parks an additional $23 million annually.
While Congress has regularly increased the operating budget of the parks, research in more than 50 parks has shown that funding fails to keep pace with need. On average, the national parks are operating with only two-thirds of the needed funding—an annual shortfall of more than $600 million system-wide. An increase of $178 million in the national parks' operating budget this year represents a reasonable and manageable amount, and a critical step toward fulfilling the mission of the Park Service and protecting our national heritage.
Just last month, Director Mainella testified to the Subcommittee that, "support of park operations is integral to fulfilling the mission of the National Park Service." As caretaker of some of our nation's most valued natural, cultural, and historic resources, the Park Service has a tremendous responsibility, managing 388 sites nationwide.
Natural Resources Challenge
NPCA strongly supports the Natural Resources Challenge—a successful multi-year program to preserve and protect the natural resources of the national parks. We request an increase of $20 million above enacted FY03 level, $11.5 million above the administration's request for this important program.
National Park Service Historic Preservation
Frederick Douglass National Historical Site, Washington, D.C.—$2 million in FY04 for historic preservation of this important home. Mr. Douglass' historic 1850s home in Anacostia is in need of immediate repair. The National Park Service lacks critical funding and staff to meet day-to-day needs and to protect Mr. Douglass' personal belongings and the integrity of the property. For example, $550,000 is needed to restore light-damaged photographs from the 19th century and to restore Mr. Douglass' treasured library collection. The site also needs funding to complete a Landscape Maintenance Plan and to hire archaeological expertise to inventory and protect the park's cultural and archaeological resources.
National Park Service Land Acquisition
Big Thicket National Preserve, Texas—$10 million in FY04, $6.6 million above the administration's request, to complete acquisition of land previously owned by timber companies within the 1994 boundary expansion. Big Thicket National Preserve, often called the "biological crossroads of North America," contains a unique mix of southeastern swamps, eastern deciduous forest, central plains, pine savannas, and dry sandhills. This acquisition is critical to protecting this unique area.
Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, Virginia—$2 million in FY04 to acquire land from willing sellers in this model partnership park dedicated in January, 2003. Private landowners have expressed an interest in the National Park Service acquiring land in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove. $2 million is a reasonable amount to provide the Park Service a foundation for moving forward with serious discussions.
Everglades Restoration, Florida—$20 million in FY04 to provide assistance to the State of Florida in purchasing lands needed to restore the Everglades. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) requires that more than 200,000 acres of land be purchased for water storage, flow and treatment. With the rising cost of real estate and increasing pressure to develop land in South Florida, it is critical that land acquisition remain on track.
Fort Clatsop National Memorial, Oregon—$8 million in FY04 to purchase from willing sellers a portion of the 1,500-acre expansion of the memorial. President Bush signed the Fort Clatsop National Memorial Expansion Act into law on August 21, 2002, authorizing the expansion. Acquiring this land is important step in preparation for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial event to culminate at Fort Clatsop in November 2005. The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners and Governor of Oregon support this acquisition.
Mojave National Preserve, California—$2 million in FY04 to complete purchase of approximately 4,000—6,000 acres of the nearly 150,000 acres of privately held lands in the Preserve. We appreciate the $1 million provided by the Committee in FY03. $2 million in additional funds are needed in FY04 to continue the purchase of sensitive lands within the boundary of the Mojave Preserve.
Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona—$3 million in FY04 to acquire 310 acres. The Tumacacori National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2001, signed into law by President Bush on August 21, 2002, expanded the boundaries of the park to protect portions of the original mission, historic orchards, and ancient irrigation systems that are extremely vulnerable to subdivision development.
Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee—$1.5 million in FY04 to acquire approximately 1,000 acres of inholdings within the Obed Wild and Scenic River corridor in Tennessee. We appreciate the Committee including this request in the FY 2003 House bill, which was not, as you know, included in the final conference. The Obed is one of the few free-flowing streams of its type remaining in the entire six-state Cumberlands region, and is the only National Wild and Scenic River in Tennessee.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona—$5 million in FY04 as a down payment to complete the purchase of private lands next to the park from willing sellers. The Arizona delegation is expected to introduce legislation this year to expand the boundaries of Petrified National Forest. A significant portion of lands within the proposed expansion area currently are in private or state ownership. Acquiring this land of nationally significant paleontological, archaeological, and scenic resources is important to their long-term protection.
Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania—$10 million in FY04, $5 million above the president's request. Of this amount, $6 million for acquisition of the Toll Brothers tract, and $4 million for additional acquisition, potentially approximately 100 acres owned by St. Gabriel's School for Boys. Valley Forge preserves the history of the American Revolution through 190 historic structures and more than 600 archaeological sites, various wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, and wildlife, including more than 200 species of birds and several state-listed rare plants.
National Park Service Construction
Denali National Park, Alaska—$750,000 in FY04 to complete environmental reviews and compliance with all design and permitting requirements for the South Denali Nature Center. This funding was provided in the Senate FY03 bill, but unfortunately, was not included in Conference. This funding will help to alleviate visitor pressure on the existing park infrastructure and to provide a new opportunity for visitors on the south side of Denali National Park. The State of Alaska and the Park Service are working cooperatively on a South Denali Nature Center to be sited in Denali State Park, near the border of the national park. The Nature Center will focus visitor attention to the alpine environment through interpretive programs and a trail system.
National Park Service—Other
Everglades Modified Waters Deliveries Project—$15 million in FY04 for the Modified Waters Deliveries Project, an important Everglades restoration project launched prior to CERP. This project would return critical sheetflows of water to Everglades National Park. $30 million over the next two years is needed to complete this project, so we recommend $15 million this year.
Everglades Restoration Plan funding—$10 million in FY04 for the Department of Interior's Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) funding. This important funding will enable the Park Service and other Interior agencies to carry out critical Everglades restoration projects.
Everglades Science funding—$6 million in FY04 for the Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative (CESI), the Department of Interior's research program designed to help guide Everglades restoration planning and project designs. A December 2002 report of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science found that $4 million is insufficient to allow CESI to meet pressing science needs of the restoration program.
National Park Service Soundscape Program Office—$6 million in FY04 to hire contractors for research and development of air tour management plans in national parks. The National Park Air Tour Management Act of 2000 directed the Park Service to cooperate with the FAA on the development of air tour management plans in parks. While originally the Park Service and FAA anticipated that air tour operators would wish to fly over 55 parks, they have received applications for flights over more than 102 park units and require $6 million in FY04 to meet its mandate on air tour management plan development.
Tribal Historic Preservation Officers—$11 million in FY04 through the Historic Preservation Fund to stabilize funding for all Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs) and to accommodate new THPOs at a base level funding of $275,000 per Tribe. Increased THPO funding will enable Tribes to achieve more timely compliance with federal, states, and tribal historic preservation laws. The THPO program represents a successful partnership; tribes match federal THPO dollars at least 3 to 1. Examples of partnerships include the Navajo National Historic Preservation Department working with the Park Service at Chaco Culture National Historic Site and at Canyon de Chelly National Park.