With the U.S. House of Representatives, if not the entire Congress, determined to shrink the federal deficit as quickly as politically feasible, expect the National Park Service to take a pretty good hit.
Figures released by the House Appropriations Committee last week identified a $51 million cut in the Park Service's budget, and when President Obama's FY12 budget proposal comes out this week it very likely will show a decrease in the agency's funding.
With an overall budget of around $2.2 billion, $51 million might not seem like much, but remember that the Park Service has a maintenance backlog of about $9 billion, so any cut could be tough to handle.
According to the World Socialist Web Site, the president's budget will reduce the Park Service's construction budget and feature "reductions in battlefield preservation grants, Native American Graves Protection Act grants, and Heritage Area funds for the National Park Service."
With that writing on the wall, at least one park advocacy group, Friends of Acadia, is trying to rally public support to lobby Congress on behalf of the parks.
Specifically, the friends group is warning that cuts in the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund could jeopardize efforts to buy a 37-acre tract with the boundaries of Acadia National Park.
Friends of Acadia and Maine Coast Heritage Trust have been working together to protect 37 acres of undeveloped land on Lower Hadlock Pond, to hold them until Acadia National Park can obtain funding to acquire the lands in February 2012. These undeveloped lands are within the Acadia’s boundary and important to the park because several trails traverse the parcel and the pond is important habitat for birds and aquatic species. Additionally, the lands help preserve the watershed for Mount Desert’s water supply.
Acadia National Park needs $2.35 million in order to purchase the entire 37 acres for inclusion in the park. President Obama’s FY 2011 budget included $1.76M for this project, and all four members of Maine’s delegation supported the project. However, Congress is operating under a continuing resolution through March 4, 2011, and has not yet taken action on the FY 2011 Interior Appropriations Bill. The House of Representatives recently released its FY 2011 appropriations recommendations, reducing LWCF levels to $348M, which would jeopardize the FY 2011 funding for Lower Hadlock Pond in Acadia. Please contact your Representatives today to encourage them to fully fund LWCF, including the $1.76 million for Acadia that was in President Obama’s FY 2011 budget.
To write to members of Congress, please visit: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml.
Meanwhile, over at Defenders of Wildlife, President Rodger Schlickeisen doesn't deny the need for fiscal control in Washington. But he does question some of the choices being made.
"The public should be able to trust Congress to demonstrate a sense of fairness and rationality in the cutting process. The House leadership’s Continuing Resolution proves otherwise," he said in a statement released Saturday. "Vital programs that keep our air and water clean and protect our wildlife and public lands have been axed while massive subsidies for big international oil corporations remain in place. Where’s the sense in that?
“It’s clear that the House leadership’s budget-cutting zeal is confined to programs that they oppose on ideological grounds, including environmental protection," continued Mr. Schlickeisen. "Unwarranted taxpayer subsidies for the biggest special interests are left untouched. Stewardship of our nation’s magnificent and unique natural heritage should rank far above fiscal handouts to the favored undeserving, but apparently not in the minds of this House leadership. If they have their way, future generations will have to pay for not only an enormous budget deficit but also a lost natural legacy. ”
Among the cuts he questioned were those aimed at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, efforts to maintain water flows into California's Bay Delta, and federal protection of gray wolves in the Rocky Mountains.
“Do the American people want cuts? Yes," said the Defenders president. "Decimation of our precious environment and natural resources? No. Clearly, the new House majority is using the Continuing Resolution as an opening salvo in an extremely broad and dangerous attack on our country’s most important environmental safeguards. We can only expect the proposals to get worse when the measure comes before the full House.”