Blog Post Clark Bunting Dec 20, 2013

Looking Ahead for National Parks

NPCA's 4 priorities for President Obama in the New Year.

An open letter to President Obama:

It’s time to turn over a new leaf in 2014, and all of us—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike—could use a fresh start. But the New Year lies just around the corner, and with it the renewed hope that our nation can right itself and chart a course toward the more perfect union our forefathers envisioned so long ago.

As we reflect on a waning year characterized by so much division, there is a moment worth remembering. Amid the darkest days of the government shutdown and its half-billion dollar toll on the local economies that depend on them, our national parks were the touchstones that united us. Simply put, places like Yellowstone, Acadia, Gettysburg, and the Statue of Liberty represent the very best of America—our rich natural, historical, and cultural heritage.

They are the American spirit made manifest, and they protect and preserve the story of this great nation. They are therefore uniquely worthy of our respect, and we should honor them with our support.

Yet, in reality, the National Park Service has experienced a slow-motion shutdown for years. Over the last decade, continuous cuts have forced national park superintendents to delay the opening of parks; close visitor centers, picnic areas, and campgrounds; and decrease the number of rangers who protect and care for our historic treasures.

As you look to the year ahead with new resolve, please consider the following items for your list of resolutions:

1. Put our national park rangers back to work by restoring thousands of positions lost over three straight years of budget cuts.

2. Repair the beleaguered visitor centers, historic buildings, and roadways in our national parks.

3. Extend the park visitor center hours that have been reduced due to budget cuts.

4. Restore the educational programs for families and school groups that were cancelled because of insufficient funding.

When our national parks are stronger, we are stronger. As we approach the centennial of America’s best idea and commemorate 100 years of our National Park Service, our most spectacular and cherished places deserve more than simply being kept open. They need to be adequately and sustainably funded so that they can continue to create jobs and draw tourists from around the world—even as they inspire us and safeguard our nation’s heritage. We sincerely hope that you will acknowledge the importance of this milestone today and take steps to strengthen our national parks tomorrow. What better legacy to leave for future generations?

About the author

  • Clark Bunting Former President and Chief Executive Officer

    Former President and CEO W. Clark Bunting joined the National Parks Conservation Association in November 2013, following a distinguished career as a businessman and innovator within the media industry.

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