A Senate appropriations bill treats the National Park Service much better than does a similar measure in the House of Representatives.
Of course, much haggling remains between the chambers before we have a final picture of how the Park Service will fare, financially, in the next budget year. However, the appropriations bill in the Senate is nearly $350 million above the House bill, and also reverses the damaging sequester cuts, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.
The Senate Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill increases the National Park Service budget by $60 million over FY12 levels. It provides a substantial increase of $182 million over current levels to operate national parks, although that still is $6 million below the Obama administration's FY14 levels, the parks advocacy group said.
“The National Parks Conservation Association applauds Senator (Jack) Reed’s (D-Rhode Island) efforts to restore funding for our national treasures. This investment would move our national parks in the direction of recovery, benefitting visitors, park communities, and the parks, themselves,” said Craig Obey, senior vice president for government affairs for the NPCA.
“In contrast, the House funding levels are fundamentally inadequate and would contribute to a continuing decline for our parks. Although the House bill clearly prioritizes park operations, the funding levels dictated by the House budget are so unrealistic that they don’t come close to meeting the need,” said Mr. Obey.
In contrast to the House bill that eliminates all funds for the National Park Service to protect the parks by acquiring inholdings within their boundaries, the Senate bill restores those levels to where they were two years ago, the NPCA review of the funding bill showed.
The Senate bill also authorizes the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and National Historical Park, and reauthorizes for an additional year the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which allows the parks to keep the nearly $180 million in entrance and other fees they collect each year. In addition, the bill includes language protecting the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument from incompatible commercial energy development and invests $300 million in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“These two bills illustrate stark, alternative futures for our national parks—one with more park rangers, the other with fewer; one with more open park campgrounds, bathrooms, and visitor centers, and the other with more closed facilities," Mr. Obey said. "Ultimately, the best way to protect the future of our parks is for Congress and the president to work together on a grand budget deal that addresses the deficit drivers and ends these indiscriminate discretionary cuts that threaten our national parks, the experience of park visitors, and gateway economies that depend on the upkeep of our national treasures."