Policy Update Jan 9, 2019

Position on H.R. 266, the FY19 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House of Representatives ahead of anticipated floor votes.

NPCA asks representatives to support H.R. 266, the FY19 Interior and Environment appropriations bill. Passage of this bill and other individual appropriations bills would reopen portions of the federal government, putting Americans back to work and reopening all our country’s national parks.

As you know, impacts to our national parks have frequented the headlines of the government shutdown. With only an estimated 16 percent of National Park Service staff on duty, parks are witnessing significant threats to human health, including overflowing trash bins and human waste left in open areas and along roads; threats to human safety are compounded by this lack of staffing. Threats to resources abound, from impacts to wildlife by the waste and litter scattered in parks, to off-road vehicle incursions to people parking and camping in sensitive areas. The ongoing closures threaten gateway businesses in communities surrounding national parks. On an average day in January, 425,000 park visitors spend $20 million in nearby communities, which is put at risk by the shutdown. Further, the loss of millions of dollars in entrance fees is only one of many fiscal impacts to an underfunded and understaffed agency. It’s time for this to end.

H.R. 266 includes a modest one percent increase for the National Park Service. While NPCA appreciates this increase and the work of appropriators to better fund our parks, we know that even with this increase, the bill’s funds are far from sufficient to meet the agency’s needs. To that end, the bill provides only a $22 million, one percent increase to operate national parks, which is not enough for parks to catch up on years of underfunding. Unfortunately, the bill also cuts the Federal portion of LWCF by 11 percent, or $6.5 million, undermining land protection efforts at Glacier Bay, Shiloh, Petersburg and other national park units. The bill also undercuts historic preservation opportunities by cutting the Historic Preservation Fund by $5 million.

We commend the bill’s compensation for federal workers; among them are the men and women of the Park Service who have been beleaguered on many levels by this shutdown.

This effort to reopen our national parks and other portions of the government without damaging policy riders should be commended, as should the efforts of appropriators to treat our parks better. As we continue to see such leadership in support of our parks out of the 116th House of Representatives, we look forward to working with members to ensure our national parks and the cultural, historic and natural resources they safeguard are adequately funded.

For the sake of parks, visitors, and local economies, we urge you to help pass this bill, and to work to prevent future federal government shutdowns.