Statement by Craig Obey, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs
“The House Appropriations bill on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies passed the subcommittee and demonstrates that national parks are a priority, yet fell short of providing the funding needed to begin restoring national parks in advance of their Centennial in 2016. The bill is also encumbered by a series of policy riders that threaten the air and water quality important to the health of park visitors, resources and wildlife.
“In what has become a recurring theme, the Interior subcommittee did not receive a funding allocation reflective of its many needs including our national parks. We are deeply concerned about the continued requirement of funding wildfire disasters at the expense of other critical needs within the bill like funding for rangers, maintenance, and land and water conservation protection that are so important to our national parks. We urge Congress to pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which would provide a modest measure of funding relief by treating the most catastrophic wildfire disasters like other major natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
“We are grateful to Chairman Calvert, Ranking Member Moran and members of the subcommittee for keeping funding for the National Park Service essentially flat with last year’s levels when many other important programs received significant cuts. In particular, we are grateful that the operation of national parks was prioritized and for support for the Centennial Challenge, which if enacted, will leverage private and federal funds for projects to help restore national parks for their 100th anniversary and beyond. Further credit is due for the $300 million investment in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, support for national parks to continue to retain the fees they collect, and the reauthorization of American Battlefield Protection Program grants.
“Unfortunately, the bill lays bare the fundamental challenge that continues to be posed by both unrealistic and unsustainable budget caps and the wildfire funding challenge. The $32 million increase for park operations may address inflation and fixed costs like keeping the lights on and the utilities paid for the parks, but it is vastly insufficient to allow parks to recover from years of cuts and an annual operating shortfall approaching $600 million. Last October’s government shutdown shuttered visitors from national parks and Americans made it clear that they want these places open, fully funded, and well-staffed.
“Long-term underfunding has reduced ranger staff levels and services to national park visitors who support $27 billion in economic activity and nearly a quarter million private-sector jobs annually. As we approach the historic Centennial of the National Park System, we urge Congress and the Administration to work together to make a genuine investment in restoring and renewing America’s national parks for their next 100 years and beyond.”
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and 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.
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