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Updated: National Park Service Budget Would Grow by $138 Million Under President's FY12 Proposal

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Editor's note: This version updates with reaction from National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan and adds remarks from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar concerning the National Park System's maintenance backlog.

President Obama's FY12 budget request, if approved by Congress, would give the National Park Service a $2.9 billion budget, an increase of nearly $138 million above current funding levels.

While the budget would slow the agency's attack on its staggering maintenance backlog, at a time when doom and gloom highlights talk around the federal budget the president seems determined to invest in the Park Service and its 394 units. Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, in a prepared statement, said investing in the country was exactly what the proposed budget does.

“Taxpayer investments in national parks result in far more than the obvious recreational and educational dividends,” said Director Jarvis. “National parks also are tremendous economic engines for their gateway communities. In 2009, park visitors spent $11.9 billion and supported 247,000 jobs.

"The budget includes tough choices to cut spending in construction and certain grant programs to address our nation’s critical budget deficit," he continued. "However, a proposed increase in investments through the Land and Water Conservation Fund will step up our commitment to states and communities, many of which are facing serious cutbacks of their own."

Among the highlights of the proposed Park Service budget:

* The overall request totals $2.9 billion, up from $2.75 billion the Park Service has been operating on under a Continuing Resolution.

* Base park operations funding would increase $39.5 million.

* It would provide $360 million for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is tapped to make land acquisitions for the National Park System.

* A $5.7 million increase, to $19.2 million, to fund youth engagement and education programs in the parks.

* $1.8 million for the U.S. Park Police operations.

* $3.2 million for cyclic maintenance and $7.5 million for repair and rehabilitation projects, two areas that can help slow the growth of the Park Service's maintenance backlog.

* $7.2 million to strengthen the Park Service's staff recruitment, training, and retention programs.

* $8 million for the Everglades Modified Water Water Deliveries project.

* $4 million towards the settlement of the North Shore Road project in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

* $61 million for the Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund.

At the same time, however, a review of the details shows a lot of red ink:

* Nearly $81 million is proposed to be cut from the Park Service's construction budget, a subtraction that would directly impact construction projects, equipment replacement, and planning.

* Both the Save America's Treasures ($25 million) and Preserve America ($4.6 million) grant programs would be zeroed out.

* Nearly $6 million in congressional earmarks targeted for projects in specific parks would be eliminated.

* Funding for Heritage Areaswould be cut by $8.8 million.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acknowledged to reporters Monday afternoon that a freeze on new construction across the National Park System would slow efforts to reduce the Park Service's maintenance backlog, which is in the neighborhood of $8 billion.

“We have in this budget proposed what I consider to be a good investment in the National Park System. And we have made significant efforts over the last two years to cut down on that backlog, which, when I came into Interior, stood at some $9 billion. We were able to make some investments close to a billion dollars, from the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) funds, and those have gone into our national park units all across the country, (and) the budgets over the last two years have allowed us to make some investments on that backlog," the Interior secretary said.

"But there’s no doubt that ... the existing backlog is in the billions of dollars. And so this will slow down the major initiative, which we’ve had under way, which has been a high priority for me, and that’s to address that backlog. We have to deal with the fiscal reality, we don’t have the money to deal with the backlog."

At the National Parks Conservation Association, President Tom Kiernan was supportive of the president's proposal.

“We’re pleased that in a challenging budget year the administration has prioritized investments in our national parks. From Yellowstone to Gettysburg, our national parks protect America’s heritage and deserve this modest investment,” Mr. Kiernan said in a statement. “We’re grateful that our national parks would have the funding they need to keep visitor centers open and park rangers on the ground. People travel from across the world to enjoy these special places, so this investment not only preserves our national heritage, but also protects jobs in communities that benefit from park tourism.”

It's doubtful, from congressional actions and discussions to date, that the budget will be warmly embraced by Congress. Already the House Appropriations Committee has targeted $51 million in cuts from the Park Service budget, and news reports have indicated some in Congress want large cuts in the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“These aren’t just difficult times, they’re serious times, and you can just feel it in the air in Washington," Park Service spokesman Jeff Olson said Monday. "So yes, we’re grateful for the budget the president has proposed. There’s still a lot that we can do. We’ll meet the mission of the Park Service."

At the NPCA, Mr. Kiernan said proposed cuts in the Park Service's budget that have been discussed in the House of Representatives were disconcerting.

"The Park Service is already underfunded with an (annual) operations shortfall of $600 million,” he said. “We’re also quite concerned with the size of the House committee cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is critical to protecting national parks from the constant threats of development.”

With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War beginning to be commemorated, the budget proposal holds $10 million within the Land and Water Conservation Fund for American Battlefield Protection Grants. These grants, which require a dollar-for-dollar match with non-federal funds, go to help state and local governments and nonprofit organization partnerships purchase and protect threatened Civil War and other battlefields.

“The president’s budget will ensure that national parks continue to serve the 285 million visitors who come every year to relax in America’s great outdoors and learn about the people and places that make up America’s story,” Director Jarvis, who was unavailable for comment Monday, said in a prepared statement. “This is especially important as we prepare for the start of our second century in 2016 and begin commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which we hope will bring millions of new visitors to our more than 70 civil war sites.”

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Comments

We just returned from a NE trip through Shenandoah National Park, and the drive encompasses about 100 miles of scenic beauty. The charge is $15 and we would have paid more for the experience. The outrage is that when we drove in there was no one on duty and the sign said "Pay on Way Out." We saw hundreds of cars and MC and hikers...on the ay out there was no one in the booth and a sign said "Keep Going." Thousands of dollars not collected during peak vacation days in August....just like the Post Office and AMTRAK..gross mismanagement and waste of our resources! Disgraceful!


first off, you are right about the the bombs. you are insane if you think the nat park can mange its lands. they are on a buying spree for resources, appearing to cater to the selfish interests of a select group. come visit quinault this summer, that might change your mind. or even contact me private!


RE: JONMOInteresting statements.  Would like to know what school of economics your theories are from.  With the charity deduction being eliminated I guess you might be right that government will be the only ones that choose which charities will be funded.  You gotta look way past the rhetoric to see what the end game is gang and it's NOT pretty.  Respectfully


It's NOT the private sector the one being demonized. It's the demons in the private sector the ones being demonized!  How exactly does the private sector drive the economy? It's the public the one that drives it. The private sector is a sales operation, not one that invests in the community. There's a Ralphs Market just across from where I live, and in the 10 years I've been here, I've yet to see them come out and repair the neighborhood roads full of potholes as a result of the constant traffic of trucks stocking their shelves. What are they waiting for? A favor from the state infrastructure authority?


I want my vote (for Obama) back: "Both the Save America's Treasures ($25 million) and Preserve America ($4.6 million) grant programs would be zeroed out." THEY ARE NOT THE SAME PROGRAM, they are not redundant. Gads can he read?

Stop supporting wars and support our national parks. Does anyone realize that cutting the NPS budget cuts jobs both in the park and many small businesses that service the parks, and then there are all the small businesses outside the parks that benefit when tourist visit the parks. I am so annoyed with this --

This comment was edited to remove a gratuitous remark about the president.--Ed.


Hi Reality Check,

Of course, I would like to keep as much of my earnings as I can. But there is no evidence that tax cuts benefit jobs or the economy. On the contrary, the economy was doing much better during the 1950s and 1960s when federal taxes were much higher than they are today.

What we do know is that cutting taxes increases the deficit. That is why George H.W. Bush agreed to raise taxes that had been recklessly cut under the Reagan administration.

Of course, we could slash the federal budget, as the Republicans are trying to do. But there is plenty of evidence that this is a really bad idea. Today's New York Times has a column on just that issue.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/business/economy/23leonhardt.html

Best,
Michael


Michael,
The Chinese are not our friends and they may not call in our debt. They are already changing our policy by their leverage. They want to dominate us. They are playing us like the idiots we are.
There's a basic disconnect of many that haven't been in the marketplace and what drives investors. There are obstacles and there is encouragement at work. Tax cuts have proven over and over that they encourage by letting you keep more of your money and you spend. You do a better job of it than government. I don't mean to lecture but it's true. If some more in the poor or middle class broke free of their thinking on this many would advance and become Republicans, LOL! Certainly more complicated than this but I like the simplicity.
I'm going for the bottle opener right now. My favorite doesn't come with twist caps :).


Hi Reality Check,

I don't question the reality of the debt to China or the fact that the deficit is not good. But it is not a dire crisis, either. The Chinese are not going to call in that debt, because they need us as much as we need them. That said, I would rather not be in debt than to be in debt to them.

My point is that dramatically cutting public spending on socially beneficial programs and on public jobs will not seriously reduce the deficit. It will eliminate a lot of jobs and reduce tax revenues, making matters worse. The idea that leaving those funds in private hands will create jobs is a fantasy. If that were so, we would have lots of jobs already, with tax rates at historic lows and corporate profits at historic highs.

If the Republicans were really serious about deficit reduction, they would not have demanded a continuation of tax breaks for the very rich, they would support the Obama health care bill (despite its flaws, it would save billions each year), they would advocate serious cuts for the Pentagon, they would end offshore tax breaks for big business, and they would stop pretending that Social Security has anything to do with the deficit. They are doing the opposite.

My point is that the best way to rein in the deficit is the same way it has been done before -- economic growth. Slashing the federal budget is not going to stimulate growth -- it's going to undermine it. We should be pumping federal money directly into job creation -- things like a new CCC, transportation infrastructure repair and expansion, etc. This would not only create jobs, but also benefit our National Parks, among other things.

Best,
Michael


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