“When we invest in our national parks, our environment, economy and communities thrive." - Theresa Pierno, NPCA's President and CEO
Washington, DC – Today, President Biden released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, which calls on Congress to provide an increase of $289 million (8% increase) to the National Park Service (NPS). This increase would help bring back more than 650 staff to parks across the country, as well as improve and modernize visitor experiences, reduce the impacts of climate change and make parks more accessible for everyone, no matter where they live. For decades, NPCA and our members and supporters have fought for more funding for our national parks and their staff to ensure they have the resources they need to protect our most treasured landscapes and irreplaceable cultural and historic places. President Biden’s proposed investments send a clear message to Congress that supporting our parks is a win-win for their future, visitors and local economies that depend on them.
This funding can’t come soon enough as visitors continue to flock to parks in record numbers. The recent visitation report released by NPS clearly reflects the deep love that people have for America’s national parks. Twelve national parks set record visitation and 75 of our more than 420 national parks experienced one million or more visits just last year. But increased visitation continues to bring numerous challenges for our parks, which are also facing insufficient funding and decreased staffing - between 2011 and 2021, there was a 7% increase in visitation but a 15% decline of staffing levels. President Biden’s budget would ensure parks and visitors are better supported by allowing the NPS to hire desperately needed staff, potentially restoring more than 650 staff lost over the last decade.
More than ever before, a majority of Americans believe that climate change is negatively impacting national parks, and that more needs to be done to combat these effects. President Biden’s proposal confirms his determination to tackle the climate crisis head-on and doing so through a multi-agency approach. In addition to the investments for parks to combat the effects of the climate crisis, the administration’s budget also calls for an increase of $1.9 billion (19% increase) for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency responsible for implementing and enforcing laws like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act so we can breathe healthy air and swim in clean water. EPA also funds key programs across the country that are restoring watersheds around parks throughout the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Everglades and Delaware River Basin, resulting in healthier and stronger communities.
At the same time the Biden administration is pushing for much-needed funding increases, some members of Congress are pitching arbitrary budget cuts across the board. Our parks are struggling every day to make ends meet and can’t afford to go backwards. Congress must instead build on last year’s investments and ensure park staff have the resources they need to provide exceptional visitor experiences and protect our parks’ irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.
Park provisions in President Biden’s budget include:
- A $289 million (8%) increase to operate national parks and ensure better resource protection and visitor experiences. This would allow NPS to bring more than 650 staff back to parks and supporting offices across the country.
- Investment of $10 million to expand the preservation and interpretation of our cultural heritage and the stories that tell a more complete story of our country’s history.
- A $28.5 million increase to improve natural resource management and ensure parks across the country have the support to address the worsening effects of climate change, including $4 million for parks to perform climate vulnerability assessments.
- Investment of $12 billion ($1.9 billion increase) for the EPA, investments that will accelerate efforts to cut air, water and climate pollution, advance environmental protections and rebuild critical agency staff capacity, adding an additional 2,400 positions.
- Investment of $415 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to advance Everglades restoration and resilient infrastructure projects aimed at restoring water flow to the national parks of South Florida.
Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):
“When we invest in our national parks, our environment, economy and communities thrive. The Biden administration clearly understands what NPCA has been saying for years. By taking care of our parks, we also protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the wildlife that call these landscapes home and the millions of people who recreate in our wild spaces. Today’s budget proposal would benefit parks and communities for years to come.
“Visitation to our parks has skyrocketed over the last decade. But because of federal funding shortfalls, far too many park managers are struggling to make ends meet, and doing so with less staff and resources. On top of their growing popularity, parks are dealing with costly damage from severe and frequent floods, wildfires, hurricanes and droughts due to climate change. As we’ve witnessed through Yellowstone’s historic flooding and declining water levels at Lake Mead, these impacts trickle down to visitors and impact communities that rely on park tourism. Increased funding to parks would provide more resources to make them stronger and more staff to ensure their protection while providing meaningful and safe visitor experiences.
“NPCA knows that the needs of our national parks cannot be solved in one budget cycle. We’ve been calling on Congress to provide more funding and resources to protect our parks for decades. The administration is taking a stand, and now we need Congress to do the same and advance the President’s vision for America’s national parks.
“Every single one of our national parks protect our history and culture. These places tell the stories of our nation’s determination, successes and injustices that we must continue to share and learn from. Our national parks are irreplaceable, and we must treat them as such.
“Lawmakers from across the aisle have worked together to take care of our parks before. We need them to stand together again. It’s long past time to re-invest in our national parks.”
Statement by Chad Lord, Senior Director of Environmental Policy and Climate Change for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):
“With historic flooding at Yellowstone and record drought at Lake Mead, our national parks are at the forefront of the climate crisis. They also offer one of our country’s best defenses for addressing these threats. President Biden’s proposed budget allows agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to support actions that combat climate change, as well as prepare our parks and communities for the impacts we cannot avoid. Increased funding and staffing strengthen EPA’s ability to support parks and communities by advancing clean energy, green infrastructure and water restoration, especially in places hit hardest by pollution or flooding. The future of our national parks from Acadia to Yosemite is dependent on acting now. If we want healthy parks and communities, we must support those who are charged with protecting our environment.”
Statement by Sarah Barmeyer, Deputy Vice President of Conservation Programs for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):
“Beyond our national parks’ trails and visitor centers there are critical landscapes and ecosystems that provide abundant conservation opportunities. The Biden administration recognizes the value and far-reaching benefits we get when we invest in programs that protect these landscapes like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has restored native plants and water to the region and expanded wetlands to combat erosion. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ restoration efforts like in the Everglades have improved water quality for drinking and outdoor recreation and created more resilient coastlines to protect communities from sea level rise and storm surge. It’s critical for Congress to follow the President’s lead and support the agencies and programs that protect us all.”
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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