As the National Park Service enters its second century, Congress has an extraordinary opportunity to provide needed resources to protect, restore and interpret our national parks.
In December 2016, Congress passed the National Park Service Centennial Act, a bipartisan bill that will better fund our national parks and enhance opportunities for education, interpretation and volunteerism in parks.
This legislation will permanently fund a public-private partnership called the Centennial Challenge Fund that will support a variety of needed improvements and activities at national parks. The initiative uses federal funding to leverage money from private entities such as foundations and national park friends groups to supplement the National Park Service budget. The funding source for the Centennial Challenge will come from raising the cost of the lifetime senior pass, which has been just $10. This money will help address important issues facing our parks, including making needed maintenance improvements and offering youth engagement programs at parks across the country. The bill also establishes and funds a national park endowment and supports our nation’s youth and volunteers.
This victory represents an important and enduring funding supplement for our national parks, though it is not enough to fund the maintenance of the entire National Park System or address its growing backlog of repair needs. In 2015, the Park Service received less than 60 cents out of every dollar it needed just to keep that repair backlog from growing.
A second piece of legislation currently pending in Congress is a spending bill for environmental programs and agencies that would better fund national parks for the remainder of fiscal year 2017. Congress recently extended funding levels for several more months at last year’s levels until there is agreement on how to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, some lawmakers have loaded the bill with controversial policy provisions that would harm the water, air and wildlife important to the health of parks, stymie efforts to address climate change, and potentially block the creation of new monuments.
With this bill, Congress did a commendable job of increasing funding for national parks, which would better meet the backlog of park repair needs to address crumbling trails, leaky roofs, decaying water systems and more. The increase would also fund additional rangers to introduce kids to parks and better preserve and interpret park sites important to the civil rights movement. It would also increase congressional funding for the Centennial Challenge.
These are commendable proposals, so why are lawmakers threatening this bill with damaging policy provisions that would harm the environment? We need Congress to remove damaging proposals that would undermine the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Antiquities Act and endangered species protections for gray wolves — or we need members of Congress to oppose the bill if the provisions remain.
It just doesn’t make sense to repair park infrastructure and support additional staff if these improvements come with dirty air and water, reduced protections for wildlife and climate change, and threats that could prevent the creation of new national monuments. Congress should not be threatening a needed funding increase for national parks with these excessive provisions.
The Park System now begins its next century of service to the American people and international visitors. However, due to years of congressional underfunding, parks need staff and resources to address more than $11 billion in needed repairs, provide routine maintenance, ensure sufficient staff to greet record numbers of visitors, and protect and enhance world-class resources.
Budget cuts and poor funding in recent years have led to crumbling facilities and too few rangers and other staff to serve visitors and protect cultural and natural resources. While recent improvements in funding will help parks begin to recover from years of poor budgets, more is needed for rangers and other staff, maintenance and projects to enhance the visiting experience.
Polling consistently has shown that Americans – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – want and expect national parks to be adequately funded. There is also clear evidence that national parks provide tremendous economic value to the economy.
As Congress deliberates these and other funding initiatives, NPCA will provide national park advocates with opportunities to encourage support for the national parks.
More than 11,000 Urge Congress to Avoid Government Shutdown
National park advocates contacted Congress and urged them to keep national parks open by avoiding a government shutdown.
17,000 Take Action to Restore Park Funding
Thousands of national park supporters asked Congress to restore park funding for 2016.
Nearly 12,000 Contact Congress in Support of President's Budget for Parks
NPCA supporters stood up for national parks by asking Congress to support the president's proposed budget for parks.
More Than 12,000 Speak Up for Better Funding
Thousands of park supporters contacted their representative and asked them to pass legislation that would better fund national parks without including policy provisions that would damage them.
More than 12,000 Contact Congress to Pass the NPS Centennial Act
Thousands of national park supporters let Congress know the time is now to provide our national parks with the financial boost they need as they enter their next century.
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