A budget plan drafted in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next fiscal year would be crippling to the National Park Service if implemented, according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
National Parks Traveler reported that the bill, approved by the House Interior Appropriations Committee, “continues a trend of eroding the Park Service budget, as well as damaging policy amendments that threaten the health of some national parks,” the park advocacy group said in a release.
While the Obama administration has proposed a roughly $2.6 billion FY14 budget for the Park Service, of which $2.2 billion would be destined for the “park operations” sub-category of the agency’s budget, the budget drafted by the House committee calls for a total Park Service budget of $2.3 billion, with $2.1 billion devoted to park operations, the category that pays for actual national park management costs.
According to the NPCA release, while the legislation does boost the operations budget line by $24 million above current levels, it nevertheless cuts funding more than $115 million below the dollar amount for park operations that was in place prior to the sequester that forced a roughly 5 percent across-the-board cut on the Park Service.
“This bill demonstrates a clear recognition that national park operations have been cut too much but without the means to provide the National Park Service with the resources it needs to truly protect our parks. It retains damaging sequester funding levels, will continue to limit the ability of the National Park Service to keep visitor facilities open, and will continue to grow the backlog,” said Craig Obey, NPCA’s senior vice president for government affairs.
“As long as the Interior appropriations subcommittee continues to receive funding allocations with their roots in fantasy rather than reality, our national parks, historic places and cultural treasures will be at ever-increasing risk. The American people and local businesses that expect and depend upon the parks and park facilities to be open and well-run will get parks that are able to do less, because they have less to work with.”
According to a new public opinion poll commissioned by the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), national parks are “cherished by an overwhelming 95% of likely voters who want the federal government to ensure the parks are both protected and available for enjoyment.”
According to a press release, the new poll finds that more than 80% of those likely to vote in 2012 have visited a national park at some point in their lives, nearly nine in 10 say they are interested in visiting a park in the future and 60% want to stay overnight in a park lodge. National parks are viewed as embodying the American experience, and voters want to see them “enjoyed, honored, cherished, and cared for, not left to crumble into disrepair.”
“From the Everglades to Gettysburg and Yellowstone, our national parks are American icons and inspire visitors from across the world, supporting urban and rural economies nationwide,” said Tom Kiernan, NPCA president. “This poll is a clear indication that voters want to see them preserved and protected for the future.”
Nearly nine in 10 voters see national parks as an important and appropriate federal responsibility. And even in these challenging fiscal times, very few voters from either side of the political aisle say the federal government should be cutting back on funding for national parks.
“The American people understand that national parks are gifts from the past to treasure today and bequeath to future generations of Americans,” said Derrick Crandall, counselor for the NPHA and president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC). “Our nation’s leaders – regardless of party – can’t allow differences on other issues to obscure the unifying force of our national parks.”
The poll of likely voters indicates that they associate national parks with key priorities and American values. Nearly 90% of voters think that candidates who prioritize national parks are seen as caring about the environment, protecting our heritage for the future, patriotic, and a good steward of our nation’s resources.
And as the National Park Service approaches its centennial in 2016, a majority of likely voters (77%) say it is important for the next president to ensure that parks are fully restored and ready to serve and be relevant to future generations in their second century.