Press Release Sep 1, 2015

Obama Calls for Public-Private Investment in National Parks

President's Proposed National Park Centennial Package Would Provide Major Funding Solutions for Projects, Engage Youth for 100th Anniversary of Park System

WASHINGTON – President Obama today submitted a legislative proposal, titled the National Park Service Centennial Act, to Congress to better address critical maintenance and improvement projects in our national parks. The proposal, if enacted by Congress, will help pay for key issues facing our parks, from addressing the mounting maintenance backlog to connecting youth to our parks.

A key component of this proposal, part of a broader strategy to get more federal dollars for parks, is the Centennial Challenge Fund. First proposed by the George W. Bush Administration, the Centennial Challenge Fund would establish a dedicated, guaranteed federal fund of $100 million each year for three years, to be matched with private contributions from individuals, foundations or businesses, starting with the 2016 centennial of the Park System.

The president’s proposal also calls for a robust and dedicated investment to directly address the crumbling infrastructure in our national parks, which coupled with additional funding in the federal transportation bill currently in front of Congress could significantly restore our parks for the next generation.

The Centennial Challenge was first established during the George W. Bush Administration but the proposed guaranteed funding was never enacted. Each year, it was left to Congress to allocate federal funding for the program. In fiscal years 2008 and 2010, as part of a pilot effort, initial federal investments of $40 million yielded nearly $50 million in donations. In 2015, Congress once again funded the Centennial Challenge with a one year federal investment of $10 million, which yielded $16 million in donations to fund over 100 projects throughout the country. The Obama Administration’s Centennial Challenge Fund proposal more robustly invests in the program and, if enacted, would provide for mandatory funding for three years. 

Below is a statement by Theresa Pierno, National Parks Conservation Association’s chief operating officer:

“Today’s announcement is an extremely important contribution to the debate of how to fund our parks and we hope it will help encourage bipartisan efforts underway in Congress. The Centennial Challenge Fund is based on a proven, viable, and bipartisan approach for using federal funding to leverage private dollars in order to make critical investments in our national parks. Dedicated federal dollars provide certainty for the private sector and allow for a multi-year fundraising effort. As a result, this initiative could leverage millions of additional dollars for the Parks and their surrounding communities for the Centennial and beyond.

“There is a successful track record for leveraging additional investments when Congress commits to a federal match, and parks are no different. Both a Democratic president and a Republican president have seen the value of this approach as part of a broader strategy for protecting our parks because the results speak for themselves. For every $1 investment in our parks, $10 come back into their local communities. This initiative will pay dividends in helping to grow those local economies and the jobs they support.

“This is an essential piece of a broader strategy to fully fund our parks, including more robust investment for park roads in the federal transportation bill. After years of declining federal funding, our parks struggle with an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog. Ranger jobs have gone unfilled and roads and trails have gone unrepaired. We are encouraged by President Obama’s commitment to help our parks get back on track. Support for parks extends well beyond party lines. Now is the time for Congress to act and restore America’s national treasures. It is time to make our national parks a national priority.”

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About 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 one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.