Statement by Craig Obey, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs
“The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Friday, released their funding proposal for fiscal year 2015 for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which makes needed progress to invest in our national parks in advance of the National Park System’s centennial in 2016. Compared to its House counterpart, the bipartisan bill is better able to meet the multiple needs of parks, in part, because it deals appropriately with funding needs for catastrophic wildfires. Importantly, the bill is also free of policy riders that threaten air and water quality important to park visitors, resources, and wildlife.
“We are deeply grateful to Chairman Reed and Ranking Member Murkowski for including the following investments critical to America’s national parks:
- Increasing national park operations to enhance visitor services, expand volunteer and youth opportunities, and continue to address the maintenance backlog.
- Supporting the Centennial Challenge, which was proposed by the Administration and in the bill’s House counterpart. If enacted, the Centennial Challenge will leverage private and federal funds for projects to help restore national parks for their 100th anniversary and beyond.
- Reauthorizing the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to allow parks and other federal lands to continue to retain the fees they collect to directly improve visitor experiences.
- Reinvesting in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will help address development threats within the borders of national parks and other public lands.
- Reauthorizing the American Battlefield Protection Program grants and investing in National Heritage Areas, where historic restoration will bolster heritage tourism and help restore and protect our unique American history.
- Providing needed funds for the Bureau of Land Management to inspect oil and gas facilities on federal lands, including those impacting national parks.
- Including policy language to fund the most catastrophic wildfires through an emergency account, similar to the funding mechanism available for other natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes.
“The Senate Appropriations bill proposes much needed support to restore funding for parks, however we are concerned that the funding available to appropriators is limited by unsustainable budget caps. Recent cuts to National Park Service funding have reduced the ability of rangers to maintain and restore park resources, and provide valuable visitor services that help support the nearly $27 billion in economic activity and more than 240,000 jobs that national parks support annually.
“Even as we express optimism that, if enacted, this proposal can benefit our national parks – that optimism is extremely guarded. As the National Park System prepares for its Centennial, this is the final year of the budget truce reached after the government shutdown that temporarily ended the damaging budget sequester. It is critically important that Congress pass this bill, begin working with the administration early next year to prevent another devastating round of sequester cuts to national parks, and make a real investment in restoring and renewing America’s national parks for their next 100 years of service 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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