Blog Post Natalie Levine Jul 15, 2015

My Members of Congress Are Friends of the National Parks. Are Yours?

228 members of Congress received NPCA’s Friend of the National Parks Award for their support of the National Park System through legislative votes in the 113th Congress (2013-2014).

I was lucky enough to grow up in Northern California, just across the majestic Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Not only is this area uniquely beautiful, with its foggy bay mornings, its 800-year-old redwood trees, and its pristine seashores alive with tule elk and elephant seals—it is also a politically active and connected community of outdoor lovers. We don’t just boat and hike and bicycle through our many natural and historic wonders—we stand up and help protect them for future generations.

Natalie at Climate Ride

The author with her father Steve at Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

camera icon Photo courtesy of Natalie Levine.

At a young age, I learned the importance of public lands and outdoor space as a place to have fun, be active, get a little dirty, refresh and reboot, and enjoy the company of friends and family. Now, as a staff member at NPCA, I’ve learned how important it is to continue to preserve and protect our public lands for future generations to enjoy.

Luckily, my congressman and senators, Representative Jared Huffman and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, also see the importance of protecting our public lands. They are three of 228 members of Congress receiving NPCA’s Friend of the National Parks Award for their support of the National Park System through legislative votes in the 113th Congress (2013-2014). See how your senators and representative voted on national park issues.

It’s true: Congress may seem constantly deadlocked, but many elected officials still try to do the right thing when it comes to crucial park-related bills. Here are the issues we used to determine this year’s Friends of the National Parks.

House Votes

  1. Amdt.5 to H.R. 152, Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. This bill authorized $398 million in critically needed funds for the National Park Service to rebuild parks and historic treasures and $360 million to improve coastal habitat and infrastructure in national parks and refuges after Hurricane Sandy. A “yes” vote supported national parks; the bill passed.
  1. H.R. 1033, American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act of 2013. This bill authorized the American Battlefield Protection Program, which will identify the location of the most important and endangered Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War battlefields and provide preservation partners with the funds and technical expertise to preserve them. A “yes” vote supported national parks; the bill passed.
  1. H.R. 2954, The Public Access and Lands Improvement Act. This bill included provisions to remove protections at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The bill overturned the multi-year public process that achieved balance between sea turtle and shorebird protection and beach driving at Cape Hatteras. It also mandated that the National Park Service change its boating regulations on rivers and streams in three years or else non-motorized boating will be unregulated on roughly 7,500 miles of rivers and streams in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. A “no” vote supported national parks; the bill passed.
  1. H.R. 1459, Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act. This bill severely weakened the ability of the president to protect important natural and cultural treasures through the Antiquities Act, which has been of paramount importance to the development of the National Park System. A “no” vote supported national parks; the bill passed.
  1. H.R. 5078, Waters of the U.S. Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014. This bill blocked attempts to clarify which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. Half of all national park waters are impaired and polluted; this clarity would have helped efforts to clean them up and protect them. A “no” vote supported national parks; the bill passed.

Senate Votes

  1. H.R. 152, Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. H.R. 152 funded efforts to improve and streamline disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy. The bill included $398 million for the National Park Service to rebuild parks and historic treasures and $360 million to improve coastal habitat and infrastructure in national parks and refuges. A “yes” vote supported national parks; the bill passed.
  2. Amdt.93 to S.Amdt.26 to H.R. 933, Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013. This amendment to the 2013 Continuing Resolution would have cut $8.1 million from the National Heritage Area program and shifted $6 million to the National Park Service Operations account. Eliminating funding for the National Heritage Areas program is not the answer to the agency’s funding woes, and the amendment would have reduced the National Park Service’s overall budget by $2.1 million. A “no” vote supported national parks; the amendment failed.
  3. Senator Tom Coburn’s motion to refer H.R. 3979, Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Senator Tom Coburn’s motion would have struck Title 30 from H.R. 3979, which included the most significant expansion of the National Park System in nearly three decades. It authorized the establishment of seven new national park sites, the expansion of nine national park sites, and the extension of 15 National Heritage Areas, and it provided protection to the North Fork Flathead River Valley in Montana. A “no” vote supported national parks; the motion failed.

We often hear that nothing ever gets done in Washington, D.C., but over the last few years, the actions of some legislators resulted in real benefits for national parks and helped thwart a few harmful policy decisions, too—even if we didn’t win every fight. After reviewing voting records and announcing this year’s Friends of the National Parks, I’m encouraged that many in Congress are on the right track to help protect our national parks as we approach their centennial year.

See the full list of Friends of the Parks award winners on NPCA’s website (PDF, 225 kb).

About the author

  • Natalie Levine Western Conservation Program Manger

    Natalie works on a variety of issues including landscape conservation and protection, air quality and visibility, and wildlife protection, with a focus on western states.