President's FY2011 Budget Proposal Seeks $2.7 Billion for National Park Service

President Obama's FY2011 budget proposal calls for $2.7 billion for the National Park Service, a number that includes a $35.3 million increase, to $2.3 billion, over FY2010 levels in operational funding tagged for ecosystem restoration, visitor services, cultural resource preservation and protection, and wildlife initiatives. Overall, though, the $2.7 billion is $21.7 million below FY2010's enacted Park Service budget.

In meeting the president's request that funding for most domestic programs be frozen for the rest of his term, the Park Service budget shows both cuts from the operations side and what officials are terming "management efficiencies." Those reductions were achieved by eliminating congressional earmarks, reducing the Park Service's construction and heritage area partnership programs, and terminating $91.2 million in program funding, including the Save America’s Treasures ($25 million) and Preserve America ($4.6 million) grants programs.

Overall, Park Service officials say, the FY2011 budget requests an additional $31.5 million to improve interpretive ranger programs, visitor facility operations and maintenance, and park resource protection. The budget includes an additional $17.3 million to enhance the service-wide capacity to carry out "increasingly complex stewardship responsibilities, safeguard our nation’s icons, protect the health and safety of visitors and employees, and maintain assets."

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis was optimistic the budget as crafted would enable his agency to meet its mission within the boundaries of the National Park System and also work to revitalize "America’s towns and cities through our community-based resource conservation and recreation programs..."

As for the president's wishes to hold the line on funding equal to FY2010 levels, Director Jarvis acknowledged the need to contain spending, but believed much could be done with the proposed budget and "innovative approaches" from within the Park Service.

“Like everyone else, we will need to tighten our belts, but the funding called for in this proposal will ensure the continuation of key initiatives for visitors, youth, land conservation and climate change,” the director said. “It is incumbent upon us – regardless of our budget – to look for innovative approaches that allow us to do our work more effectively and efficiently. This year, we began the consolidation of our workforce management and acquisition and contracting offices to provide better services, and lower our costs.”

Among notable items contained in the proposal:

* $2 million to support Chesapeake Bay ecosystem stewardship efforts and improve public access to the bay.

* $5.8 million for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s Youth in Natural Resources Initiative, which augments Park Service efforts to use national parks to introduce young people to nature, engage them in the stewardship of parks, and offer experiences that could lead to a career in conservation or land management. The money would fund youth education and employment programs at 19 park units benefiting 27 parks.

* A $30 million increase for national park land acquisition and state grants to promote local recreation and conservation. The administration has voiced a commitment to fund Land and Water Conservation Fund programs at $900 million annually by 2014 using a multi-year incremental approach. The LWCF supports federal, state, and local acquisition of lands and waters for recreational and conservation purposes.

* $10 million, the same as requested for FY2010, for climate change work. The Park Service is using the funds to assess parks’ vulnerability to climate change, develop adaptation and mitigation
strategies to reduce impacts, and continue monitoring resources in collaboration with other Interior bureaus and partners.

* a $7.2 million increase to "strengthen the Park Service's ability to recruit, train, and retain staff to strategically position itself as an effective, responsive, and accountable 21st century NPS. This funding will support reorganization of the NPS human resources functions by consolidating the number of human resources offices, streamlining the hiring process, and providing front-line managers with more guidance in the areas of employee relations and performance management."

* an increase of $1.8 million for U.S. Park Police operations. "This will provide additional law enforcement at the Statue of Liberty National Monument, a critical need in light of the reopening of the Statue’s crown on July 4th, 2009. Funding will also provide for additional U.S. Park Police patrols at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., scheduled to open in 2011."

* Elsewhere in the president's budget, different agencies were given a combined total of $263 million for continued work on restoration of the Everglades.

* Within the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed budget there is $50.2 million for continued work on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The budget proposes a $44.6 million reduction in construction funds, but agency officials said the $750 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding helped address some substantial projects that were awaiting construction funds.

Attached is the Interior Department's "Budget in Brief" document, which tracks the NPS budget proposal.

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