House Subcommittee Backs Big Boost in Parks Funding

The House parks subcommittee is calling for a sizable boost in funding for the national parks, surpassing even the president's proposal for Fiscal 2008 in a gesture the National Parks Conservation Association is calling a "grand slam" for the park system.
"The House has provided record funding for national parks, putting rangers back in the parks to protect resources and educate and inspire visitors. It will also provide funds to protect land threatened by development and jump-start the Centennial Initiative," NPCA President Tom Kiernan said in the wake of yesterday's action. "We now look to the U.S. Senate to ensure this victory for America's heritage."
The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Congressman Norm Dicks, D-Washington, provided $2.5 billion overall for the Park Service, an increase of $228 million above FY07 funding levels and $153 million above President Bush's FY08 budget proposal.

The House subcommittee did President Bush better in a number of areas. Along with the overall parks budget, the committee called for an additional $181 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, $25 million of which would help the Park Service buy inholdings in the parks. It also boosted funding for historic preservation by $30 million over current levels.
As for the proposed National Park Centennial Initiative, the subcommittee proposed $50 million in funding, which is half of what the administration is calling for but probably more realistic. Under the proposed centennial initiative, the federal government would match up to $100 million annually in philanthropic contributions over the next decade, but the private sector has never come close to donating that much in a single year.
Part of the administration's centennial initiative also called for an extra $100 million per year as the president's commitment towards the Park Service centennial in 2016, but the subcommittee failed to adopt that. "The president's budget requested $100 million in mandatory spending, which is being considered by the authorizing committees but is unlikely to be in place for 2008," the committee notes said.
Additionally, the subcommittee did not provide $7 million the president wanted for studies into draining the reservoir that inundates Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Of course, the subcommittee's funding proposal is only a piece of paper at this point. While Blake Selzer, the NPCA's legislative director, feels good that the full House Appropriations Committee will adopt the proposal, he's less sure about whether the full House will sign off on it. And then, of course, there's always the Senate.