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Update: President's FY14 Budget Proposal Would Get Interior "Out Of Ditch," Provide $2.3 Billion For National Park Service

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Editor's note: This updates with additional details on the president's proposal for national parks, clarifies budget numbers, adds reaction from the National Parks Conservation Association.

Recent years of relatively sparse federal funding have left the Interior Department and its agencies "in the ditch," according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who says President Obama's FY14 budget proposal for the department will reverse that trend if approved by Congress.

Under that proposal, Interior overall would receive $11.9 billion for the next fiscal year that begins in October, while the National Park Service would receive $2.3 billion to manage the 401 units of the National Park System. Additionally, the budget calls for full funding -- $900 million -- of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps pay for land acquisitions for the park system and improvements to the national trails system, by 2015.

"The president's budget is one that starts getting the Department of Interior out of the ditch. It's a thoughtful budget, and one that we are very proud of," Secretary Salazar said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. "The budget makes smart investments in things that we need to grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class while reducing the deficit."

However, a review of Interior's briefing document (attached below) on the Park Service budget proposal shows that it calls for a reduction of more than 100 full-time employees to an agency that currently has 900 full-time vacancies, and would cut $3 million from the agency's operational budget under park management, and another $2.2 million under visitor services. How those cuts would be absorbed was not immediately clear.

"I wouldn't call it the robust budget that the secretary called it this morning," John Garder, the budget cruncher for the National Parks Conservation Association said Wednesday evening after reviewing the budget documents. "It's good, but it's not going to do the job of getting the parks out of this worrisome trend that we're seeing, a slow march towards reduced park operations."

In total, the president's proposal would provide $2.6 billion for the Park Service. All but $300 million would be for "park operations," the main checking account, if you will, for managing the 401 units of the park system; the outstanding $300 million is earmarked for programs under the NPS, such as the National Recreation and Preservation program ($52 million) that supports local and community efforts to preserve natural and cultural resources; the Urban Parks and Recreation Fund ($10 million); the Historic Preservation Fund ($58.9 million); construction ($160 million) outside that provided in the park operations budget, and; Land Acquisition and State Assistance ($100.4 million).

The budget also calls for a reduction of 92 employees under park operations, and 30 from the construction programs.

At the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Deny Galvin called the proposal for the parks "essentially a stand pat budget."

"It's not far from what the Obama administration requested in 2009, the first Obama request ($2.529 million vs. $2.6 million)," he said in an email. "So from there out it's just moving things around. The modest increase in operations is mostly offset by fixed cost increases of $30.5 million.

"Perhaps the most newsworthy thing about these numbers is that they ignore the sequester. That should provoke some interesting reactions on the hill," said Mr. Galvin, a former deputy director of the Park Service.

Interior Secretary Salazar told reporters that if approved the proposal would "put the nation on a path to live within our means by finding efficiencies and making some very tough choices. It is a strong blueprint for Interior's mission."

According to a synopsis of the budget provided by the department, the proposal calls for more than $600 million in programmatic reductions to offset spending. It also would sustain current administrative cost reductions in travel, contract services, and supplies and equipment that would save $217 million.

National Park Service Director John Jarvis did not participate in the call and was not taking questions from reporters, according to his staff. However, the agency said the agency's $2.3 billion operations budget proposal represents a $48.4 million increase over 2012 funding levels. But at the same time, the agency would need to cut nearly $21 million from elsewhere in its budget.

"Key increases include $5.2 million to control exotic and invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels, $2 million to enhance sustainable and accessible infrastructure across the National Park System, and $1 million to foster the engagement of youth in the great outdoors. These increases are partially offset by programmatic decreases to park operations and related programs totaling $20.6 million," a Park Service release said.

Under the president's proposal, the Park Service would receive $110.4 million in LWCF dollars, of which $60.4 million would be set aside for use in park land acquisition. The budget also contains $5.5 million specifically to purchase Civil War battlefield lands within national parks, with another $9 million requested to help state and local governments and non-governmental organizations "purchase and protect threatened Civil War and other battlefields" outside the park system.

Regarding the Park Service's construction and maintenance account, the proposal requests $160 million, an increase of $4.6 million over 2012 levels. "This includes $83.1 million for line-item construction projects, a $5.3 million increase from 2012," the Park Service staff noted. "It provides funding for the highest priority construction projects critical to visitor and employee health and safety and environmental restoration."

In recent years, the president's budget proposal as a whole has gained little traction with Congress.

Back at NPCA, Executive Vice President Theresa Pierno said the proposal was lacking.

“The National Park Service is experiencing deep impacts from the sequester and other continued reductions. This year will be the most challenging in some time for national park superintendents who will have fewer rangers and smaller budgets to manage each park from Yellowstone to Acadia," she said in a prepared statement. "Funding the operations of the National Park Service needs to be more of a priority than it has been to date. We're pleased that the president recognizes the need to reverse the mindless sequester, but it will take more than that recognition to address the reality facing national parks.

“The sequester has already cut more than $130 million from the National Park Service budget, forcing places like Yellowstone, Acadia, Independence Hall, and Cape Cod National Seashore to delay seasonal openings, close visitor centers, picnic areas, and campgrounds, and eliminate ranger positions that are critical to protecting endangered species and historic buildings, as well as greeting park visitors and school groups. Further cuts will only impair the national park experience."

Comments

"The fact is as typical beaurucrats, they feel compelled to spend every dime they can."

Speaking of fabrications, can you prove that one?


Interior could not, for example, simply decide to move money appropriated to the BLM to the NPS, or even move money appropriated for one function within a bureau to a different function.

Perhaps they can't move after appropriations have been made but they can ask for before hand. They didn't. And suppose they didn't spend the money. The fact is as typical beaurucrats, they feel compelled to spend every dime they can.

And I see Lee, you are back to your fabricating of quotes.


Scott, it's called "entitlement." As in "I'm entitled to do anything I want to do anyplace at any time in any of our parks and if they try to make me pay anything for it I'll throw a tantrum. I'm a conservative and God bless the Tea Party."

And sincere thanks to Sara and Dahkota and Quiet Please and Rick and David and Jim for at least trying to stand up to one of our most prominent tantrum tossers. Join the crowd; you've just been ignored.

Far too many of our legislators of all kinds (and perhaps some news media and a few who post here ) are very expert at fibbing -- which by my definition includes telling just enough of the truth to avoid an outright lie, but shading or twisting it enough to fool people into believing something different enough that they will support whatever agenda is being pushed. That's why I wonder sometimes if our friend isn't really a politician in disguise.

Have a smiling day everyone!


ec - The wording of the BLM quote you cite is awkward, and would be clearer if it read something like: "National Monuments are special areas of public land established by Congress or designated by public proclamation by the President ."

Yes, Congress could establish a national monument if it wanted to do so, but in that case, it would be via the legislative process, not under the authority of the Antiquities Act.

The big complaint by some in Congress has been about the President's supposed "overreach" in using this authority to designate national monuments without congressional approval.
Here's the key language from the American Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 USC 431-433:

"Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments,..."

As to your comment, "All funding if ultimately fungible. Within the Dept of Interior, the department can ask for funds for A or B."

You like to spar over definitions, so we don't know which one you're using in this case, but your context suggests you mean those funds are "interchangeable." That is correct only concerning funds which have been "asked for" by the Department, because a budget request is simply a point for discussion.

Funds which have been "asked for" have no real value to agency operations. Funds are useful only after they have been appropriated - and then they are no longer fungible.

Interior could not, for example, simply decide to move money appropriated to the BLM to the NPS, or even move money appropriated for one function within a bureau to a different function. That lack of agency discretion for use of funds is part of the current dust-up over the sequester.


I find it ironic that the very people who think the Parks can and should be run with much tighter budgets, those who love to see the current "belt tightening", are the first in line to claim the high costs associated with running Parks.


and that the funding for one is not at all related to the funding of the other?

All funding if ultimately fungible. Within the Dept of Interior, the department can ask for funds for A or B.

he Antiquities Act gives the President the power to create National Monuments. If you can show anything different, please do.

First sentence from BLM page: "National Monuments are special areas of public land designated by public proclamation by the President or by Congress.

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/content/ca/en/prog/monuments.html

If he did, he cannot read a simple sentence.

Yet he was far closer than your proclamations of "very little" or "minimum". Did you lie when you said those?


"He wasn't talking about military drones, he was talking about drones deployed by the Interior Department to track roaming animals."

I'm completely aware of that. You do understand that the NPS and and the USGS are two different agencies within the Department of the Interior, yes? And that those two agencies has separate budgets, yes? and that the funding for one is not at all related to the funding of the other?

"Wrong. Not to mention it is hard to fathom that any Park, Monument are other site is established without the encouragment of the NPS."

Actually, you are wrong. The Antiquities Act gives the President the power to create National Monuments. If you can show anything different, please do. And, who has input or encouragement is irrelevant. the NPS does not have the power to create National Monuments.

"Perhaps he erred saying yearly but this monument alone will cost $4 million in the first year and $1.5 million every year thereafter. What will the other 12 be on top of that? That puts his assessment of "costing millions" far more on target than Lees "Very little" or the "minimum" and "no out of pocket costs" you described earlier."

Perhaps he erred. If he did, he cannot read a simple sentence. Or, he was purposefully mis-directing people. The other twelve were not sited. The point in question was whether or not Coburn lied or mis-directed people. If he will lie about $4 million, or as you state, "err," then it is quite possible that he will lie or "err" about other facets of the NPS and its budget. You blindly accept anything Coburn might say and yet you dismiss what other people, including congressmen say.

Please feel free to point out other inaccuracies in my previous statements, since, as you say, "there are so many." At the same time, I will ask you for evidence (as you so often demand) of the millions of dollars the NPS will need to spend. I have supplied evidence to the contrary, and yet you dismiss my sources, even when they are Coburn's sources to begin with.


Dahkota, so many posts and so many mistatements its is hard to address in one post. I will just hit a few high (low) lights.

money from drones could be used to pay for flood warning systems). As these are two different agencies

He wasn't talking about military drones, he was talking about drones deployed by the Interior Department to track roaming animals.

The President designates all National Monuments

Wrong. Not to mention it is hard to fathom that any Park, Monument are other site is established without the encouragment of the NPS.

So, the Delaware site will receive $2.5m in one time funding then $1.5m yearly. Yes, it adds up to $4m, but not in perpetuity nor yearly.

Perhaps he erred saying yearly but this monument alone will cost $4 million in the first year and $1.5 million every year thereafter. What will the other 12 be on top of that? That puts his assessment of "costing millions" far more on target than Lees "Very little" or the "minimum" and "no out of pocket costs" you described earlier.


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