Obama Budget Proposes $2.7 Billion National Park Service Budget

National Park Service's proposed FY2010 budget calls for $171 million funding increase. Kurt Repanshek photo.

President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal 2010 budget includes $2.7 billion for the National Park Service, a $171 million increase from FY09. Within that total is $68 million for use in buying private property inside national park boundaries.

Private "inholdings" long have been an issue with the National Park System. A year ago the National Parks Conservation Association released a special report, America's Heritage for Sale, that pointed to 55 units of the park system that had inholdings within their borders.

Part of the problem has been declining funding for the purchase of these inholdings. At one point, according to the NPCA's Ron Tipton, the Park Service was given $130 million to buy up such properties, but in 2007 that annual total dwindled to about $34 million. While $68 million is not $130 million, it's a step up from recent years' funding requests.

Other National Park Service highlights within the president's budget proposal:

* A $100 million increase in the Park Service's operations budget

* $25 million as the government's share of what the Bush administration called the Centennial Challenge, in which private dollars are matched one-to-one by federal dollars.

Interestingly, there is no mention of whether President Obama would follow President Bush's lead by sending an additional $100 million to the Park Service for help in preparing the National Park System for the agency's centennial in 2016. Of course, it was just a couple of weeks ago when the president provided $750 million in "economic stimulus" funds for the park system, and that money is going to some very needy and long over-due projects.

* $10.0 million to "assess risks to park resources and identify climate change adaptation or mitigation; build a climate change monitoring system using the existing NPS natural resource network coordinated with USGS and other land management agencies; and establish a NPS-wide climate change office."

* "An increase of $1.0 million to develop an inventory of cultural landscapes and historic and prehistoric structures, and $1.0 million for archeological identification, evaluation, and documentation projects in parks, providing the first step to preserve important cultural resources."

* "An increase of $2.7 million is requested for a comprehensive leadership development program that
will help NPS pursue and sustain leadership and development opportunities for all employees."

There's additional good news for the national parks in the budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency, as it includes $10.5 million for the Park Service to use in the ongoing Great Lakes restoration work. That money will be spent in a variety of ways, from combating invasive species to wildlife improvements and battling pollution.

"This is a huge step in recognizing that our federal land managers play an instrumental role in the health of the Great Lakes!" says Lynn McClure, NPCA's Great Lakes regional director.

The president's budget also calls for a 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps, a program that will strive to get youngsters more familiar with the out-of-doors.

The corps "is a positive step toward engaging and training the next generation of national park stewards," said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. “We also applaud the president for proposing $183 million for land management agencies, including the National Park Service, to implement clean energy initiatives and activities to assess and respond to the effect of climate change on wildlife.

"Safeguarding national parks like Glacier and the Great Smoky Mountains will ensure the protection of wildlife and wild places for our children and grandchildren, and provide economic and other benefits for the communities that thrive near these priceless places."