NPCA Issues New Graphic Depicting Hardships Budget Cuts Would Impose On National Park System

The new campaign by the National Parks Conservation Association points out what cuts to the National Park Service's budget would do to the agency and the communities that surround national parks.

Imagine if more than one third of the 397 units of the National Park System had to shut down because the Park Service didn't have the money to operate them. That's one example the National Parks Conservation Association is using to illustrate the threat of impending budget cuts on the agency.

The recently launched campaign doesn't stop there, either. It points out the economic benefits of national parks -- "Every dollar invested in park operations generates about $10 for local communities, and every two Park Service jobs yields one job outside the park" -- equates the economic might of the Park Service "to the revenue of many Fortune 500 companies," and cites a recent poll indicating that 92 percent of Americans believe park funding should either remain at current levels or be increased.

The campaign comes as the presidential campaign is getting down to the closing months, what with the GOP Convention scheduled to start Tuesday and the Democratic Convention scheduled for early September. The funding fate of the Park Service could hinge on which which party wins the presidential election in November, and which controls Congress.

To make a point that the agency shouldn't be in the calculations of either party's budget cuts, the NPCA graphic also notes that the Park Service's roughly $3 billion budget represents just one-14th of 1 percent of the entire federal budget -- in other words, very, very small potatoes -- and that "slashing" that budget could affect nearly 260,000 jobs across the country.

Comments

The greatest threat to the National Parks is not budget cuts, but the secretive, dysfunctional, wasteful, and bloated upper management of the National Park Service. This group deludes itself that they are environmental leaders, when their number one priority is growth. 'More' is simply not sustainable, for a society or for a cult-like government agency.

This aspect of the NPCA's appeal seems rather histrionic: "the Park Service could face cuts of up to 10 percent. That would likely mean closed visitor centers, . . . campgrounds . . . and parks, and thousands of parks staff out of a job."

Many state and local agencies have faced worse cuts than 10 percent and maintained full functionality.

Of course, I could be missing context. If the NPS budget has already been severely cut, then possibly a 10 percent cut could be severe. Has it been?

In either event, I have a suggestion. If the budget is cut 10 percent, or a further 10 percent, stop arming so many rangers. Presumably the armed rangers are paid more, their pensions cost more, and their equipment costs more. The presence of their sidearms is off-putting; it makes the parks feel oppressive. I especially disliked seeing a picture of an armed ranger at a North Cascades National Park pass recently. Unless bears are marauding, there would seem to be no need for it (this is assuming a handgun makes any difference to a bear). If I were there, I would feel that it puts a damper on the setting, which is within a Wilderness area, miles from any trailhead and not a likely location for a terrorist or a psychopath to unleash a rampage.

I was not aware that Yellowstone was one of the 150 smallest park units!

Graphics like these drive me nuts because even if I agree with them, they lose me with outrageous lies in the graphics. They have great points to make, but miss out with false images.

Oops. Sorry. I thought I came to a website for people who support protecting national parks. Looks like I ended up at a Tea Party website instead.

Anon - 4:43

As much as you would like to believe otherwise, being a Tea Party supporter and wanting to protect national parks aren't mutually exclusive.

Is it my imagination or does the graphic entitled "The Wrong Direction" make no sense. Surely it should read $3.04 Billion and $2.58 Billion rather than Million.

Anonymous of 4:43, I doubt there are many Tea Partiers on this site. Also, I'd bet 99% of us want to protect the national park system.

Ultimately, it's impossible for someone like me to judge from the outside whether the National Park Service is efficient, inefficient, or a combination of the two. On the one hand, the NPS final rule (recently published in the Federal Register) allowing a small degree of mountain bike use in national parks is well and intelligently written, which is all the more impressive when one considers that the NPS staff authors aren't that highly paid. And if the NPCA's stated NPS budget figure of $2.58 billion is accurate, that seems reasonable. (The NPCA graphic states $2.58 million, but obviously, as pointed out above, that's a mistake.) On the other hand, when I went to the remote Great Basin Nat'l Park a couple of summers ago, I noticed what seemed like a lot of employees driving around in big trucks. And I question the need and the desirability of having so many armed rangers. Arming people is expensive as well as lending itself to an oppressive feeling for visitors. I would doubt that making this point makes me a Tea Party aficionado, nor am I any kind of Republican either.

I'm sure "privatizing" national parks, or otherwise slashing their budgets to avoid the "tyranny" of taxes would both be "good" for national parks, according to the Tea Party? In either case, national parks suffer.

imtnbke

Those armed rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers that in some cases are the only law enforcement inside National Parks. The rangers are armed because they do the same high risk jobs as any police officer or highway patrolman including; serving warrants, drug busts, traffic stops and other criminal investigations. Perhaps in a perfect world where crime stops at the entrance station the rangers wouldn’t need to be armed. However in the crime riddled society of America in personally find it comforting to know that even in a National Park if someone starts a fight or discharges a weapon, a trained and armed law enforcement officer will be there soon to handle the situation.

Look at these statistics and tell me rangers do not need guns.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2008/02/28/GR2008022800363.html

Those armed rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers that in some cases are the only law enforcement inside National Parks. The rangers are armed because they do the same high risk jobs as any police officer or highway patrolman including; serving warrants" outsource "drug busts" end the federal war on drugs "traffic stops" no more cars in national parks "and other criminal investigations" which would decreaes under the above senarios

Hi, Ranger Paul,

Thanks for pointing me to that graph. I'll get to it in a minute.

I haven't said there should be no law-enforcement rangers in national parks. I do think there should be few, however, and it bothered me to see a photo of a ranger with a sidearm standing at Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park, with her gun offering a jarring and rather unpleasant contrast to the pacific setting.

Back to the graph . . . .

The graph looks alarming until one looks at it closely. Doing so, one sees that in 2006 the National Park System had 272,600,000 visitors and a mere 384 violent crimes: 16 unlawful homicides, 35 completed or attempted rapes, 61 robberies (it's not stated how many of these involved a firearm or instead were knife or strongarm offenses), 16 kidnappings, and 261 aggravated assaults (a term that usually means assault with a deadly weapon or assault causing serious bodily injury).

Burglary is on the cusp between violent and nonviolent crimes, but if one wants to add the 411 burglaries to the violent crime category, the tally climbs to 795 violent crimes total, or 1 violent crime for every 342,893 visits to the national parks.

That sounds incredibly safe to me. I bet the odds of being a violent crime victim are higher in a North Dakota town of 5,000 people. A town that might have three cops, if that.

I'm open to being further enlightened on this topic if you or anyone else wants to add anything. But for now, the graph convinces me even more that we don't need a lot of gun-toting rangers in the national parks.

Out of curiosity, if you happen to know, what are (1) the pay differential between the armed rangers and the unarmed ones, (2) the ratio of armed rangers to unarmed ones, and (3) the raw numbers for each category of employee? Thanks.

I see that million has now become billion on the graphic image at the top, for anyone who wonders what we've been talking about when we referred to an erroneous million.

Happy to “enlighten” imtnke (and yes i agree that some backcountry rangers do have to many weapons).

1. The pay grade in the NPS goes on the G.S. system. This means that a Protection Ranger (gun toting) and a Interpretive Ranger (education) who have the same G.S. example GS 7 will get paid the same. The base salary goes on the G.S. only, however some parks pay a little more due to being in an expensive area.

2. As for the exact number it is hard to say as many of the position titles say only “Park Ranger” this could be Interpretive Rangers, Interpretive Rangers or others. However in the many parks I have been to the number of non-protection rangers far exceeds the number of rangers with guns.

Also just another point but those Protection Rangers are not strictly “cops” they also serve as paramedics and firefighters.

Hopefully this answers your questions.

Yes, thank you.

I maybe biased in my opinions having a husband as one of those gun toting rangers, but I also see how highly skilled and trained they are in their profession and within the federal government are the least paid. Every other land management law enforcement officer is paid more than NPS rangers, yet are not required to have and maintain the same skill set of rangers.

Having worked at North Cascades and seen first hand what really happens in that park, I would argue there isn't enough law enforcement around. How quickly people forget that within North Cascades there was a major marijuana bust which involved the removal of over a ton of garbage from the side of a mountain that was literally clear-cut one acre square. Or how the most popular hiking trail is also a major drug trafficing highway between the US and Canada. Or how over $250,000 in damage was done to a remote housing unit that ran strictly off the grid and yet the staff that lived there did "the best they could under conditions with no power" for the entire season.

I would heed caution to pointing fingers at others without at least attempting to understand their perspective.