Policy Update Jul 19, 2023

Position on House FY24 Interior Appropriations

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Committee on Appropriations ahead of a markup scheduled for July 19, 2023.

On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) more than 1.6 million members and supporters nationwide, I write to express our strong opposition to the Interior and Environment appropriations bill and urge you to oppose it. Since 1919, NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System and we know that funding our parks is one of their most urgent needs.

The bill seeks to cut the National Park Service (NPS) budget by $436 million (nearly 13%), which would set our parks back significantly. This includes an unrealistic, deeply damaging cut of $266 million (9%) to the Operation of the National Park System. A cut of this magnitude would almost certainly result in the loss of at least one thousand rangers and other staff, which would significantly undermine protection of natural and cultural resources as well as visitor services. NPS would also have to absorb $120 million in uncontrollable fixed costs, leaving superintendents little choice but to leave positions lapsed, cut down on seasonal rangers or even furlough existing staff. Enacting a cut this deep would be unprecedented in modern history if not in the entire history of the National Park Service.

Making matters worse, the bill also cuts park construction funding in half (a 52% cut from $287 million to $115 million), which would only lead to the growth of the deferred maintenance and repairs backlog that has attracted bipartisan concern and support for addressing it. The bill also includes a 14% cut to the Historic Preservation Fund, undermining tribes’ and communities’ efforts to protect and interpret our historic and cultural legacy.

The bill also cuts EPA funding by $4 billion, a 39% cut that impacts core clean air and water programs nationwide, cuts critical water infrastructure programs by nearly two thirds and eliminates investments in environmental justice. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Geological Survey, essential partner agencies to NPS, are cut by 13% and 10% from their respective FY23 funding levels. These steep cuts would threaten the health of our communities and parks and set back decades of progress in restoring and protecting critical ecosystems and landscapes across the country. Moreover, the proposed $9.4 billion rescission of climate investments from the Inflation Reduction Act would set back our clean energy transition and hamstring efforts to make our communities and park landscapes resilient to rising temperatures, changing sea levels, and extreme storms.

The bill also undercuts protections for threatened and endangered species. For 50 years, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been a critically important tool in the conservation and restoration of the over 600 threatened and endangered species that depend on habitats in national parks. This bill not only slashes vital funding for the programs on which listed species rely to avoid extinction and recover, but it also directly undermines the protection of specific park species. The policy riders that remove protections for lower-48 gray wolves and northern long-eared bats and block funding for the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Ecosystem Restoration Plan are egregious.

The bill has additional policy riders that harm parks, communities and the environment and climate on which they depend. For instance, the bill threatens water quality in Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness by reversing a mining ban that would prevent toxic mining in the Rainy River Watershed in Northern Minnesota. The bill also prevents funding for environmental justice and undermines protection of public lands, clean air and water and climate. It also seeks to undercut efforts to ensure a diverse and effective workforce by undermining Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility at the Department of the Interior and other departments and agencies.

We are also deeply concerned about the energy, oil and gas, and mining riders included in the bill. These riders threaten to irreparably harm our national parks, monuments and other special lands by opening them up to increased industrial activity.

This bill would set our national parks back significantly, threaten the economies of the many communities that rely on them for their livelihood, undermine the incremental progress addressing climate change and significantly harm our air, water and wildlife.

We urge you to oppose this deeply damaging and unrealistic bill and instead work with the Senate to produce a bipartisan bill that can move forward without deep cuts and harmful policy riders.

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