Press Release Dec 16, 2015

Omnibus Budget Boosts Funding for National Parks

Makes Critical Investments in National Parks, Extends LWCF

WASHINGTON – Below is a statement by John Garder, Budget Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, on the fiscal year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill announced today that includes significant increases in funding for national parks.

“The deal released today clearly shows that congressional appropriators and leadership recognize that our national parks need and deserve an increase in federal resources, and we commend them for reaching such a promising agreement. These are unquestionably the best funding levels for parks we have seen in years, and will be critical for providing needed rangers and making needed repairs in preparation for the expected influx of visitors for next year’s Centennial of the National Park Service.

“It is no small feat that this bill is largely free of additional damaging policy riders that would have harmed our parks’ air, water, and wildlife. While we are concerned this bill includes some policy provisions that could harm our parks, this bill makes critical investments, including a badly needed increase in park maintenance funding. We appreciate that the Administration has pushed for both keeping out damaging policy riders and boosting park funds.

“The bill extends the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s funding stream for three more years, and also provides a robust funding level that will protect many parks throughout the country from the threat of development.

“This bill also boosts funding for the Centennial Challenge, a bipartisan initiative that matches private dollars with public funds to address needs throughout the park system, from education to infrastructure. We urge Congress to build on this investment by passing bipartisan legislation to boost this important program.

“Today is a great step forward for parks, and we hope Congress will continue in this direction by providing our parks with the additional resources and supportive policies they need to thrive in their second century.”

Bill Details:

• A 4%, $94 million increase for park operations that will provide needed staff to serve visitors, maintain parks and protect wildlife;

• A $5 million increase in the Centennial Challenge program to $15 million. This will leverage at least $15 million in private dollars for projects throughout the country;

• A 40%, $55 million increase in the construction account, central to addressing the deferred maintenance backlog. In today’s dollars, it is a level roughly equivalent to five years ago before recent cuts. However, it is well short of funding levels the account enjoyed a decade ago;

• $33 million for federal LWCF projects that will fund more than 20 projects throughout the country, and a three-year extension of the program’s funding stream from offshore drilling receipts;

• Provides endangered Heritage Areas, which help communities protect nationally significant historic resources, with near-term budget relief and funding extensions;

• A $9 million increase in the Historic Preservation Fund;

• $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a $50 million increase over the president’s budget and equal to FY15 levels;

• Extension of authority for the Chesapeake Bay Initiative through 2017; and

• Everglades restoration funding equal to the President’s budget request, including $123.7 million for construction for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – an 80% increase over FY15 funding.

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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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