So, where do we go now with the president's budget for the National Park Service? That's an excellent question, and one that will be fascinating to watch as Congress tries to produce an equitable answer.
While it's not likely there will be many in Congress who say the parks should get less than the $2.4 billion the president is proposing for the agency for FY08, there are quite a few on the Democratic side of the aisle who will fret over how the president would balance his budget.
"Unfortunately the encouragement over the Park Service increase comes at the expense of other environmental priorities, including a $508 million reduction of the EPA budget and a $174 million cut in the budget of the U.S. Forest Service," says Representative Norm Dicks, D-Washington, who chairs the House Interior Appropriations subcommittee.
"Congress will not likely be inclined to accept those reductions, and it seems to me that we must realign our priorities so that the Interior and Environmental appropriations accounts receive a more appropriate share of the federal budget allocation."
Some inkling of what Congress is thinking could come in the weeks ahead. As I understand it, Mary is tentatively scheduled to testify before the House parks subcommittee on March 1, Dirk is tentatively scheduled to appear before Rep. Dicks' subcommittee on March 6th, with Mary following him on March 7th.
The questions those two field could provide some clues as to what Congress might do with the president's proposal.
On the Senate side, I understand that 37 of the 50 senators (22 Democrats, 15 Republicans) support the president's parks' proposal. But again, there are portions of the rest of the budget that no doubt won't sit well with the Senate. One point sure to be tough to swallow is the administration's regurgitated request to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
So expect no quick solutions and don't be surprised if the budget Congress eventually approves -- if it manages to approve one, since it failed to pass an FY07 budget -- looks very, very different from the current proposal.