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Op-Ed: Let's Compromise To Support The National Parks


Rob Smith, NPCA's Pacific Northwest Region director.

There is a place to start coming together on the federal budget, and Sen. Patty Murray is well-suited to lead the way as chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee and a leader in the current, difficult budget negotiations. Shutting down the government — and our national parks — is simply not a reasonable choice.

In addition to disrupting long-planned vacations, relocating weddings, and spoiling other events, communities surrounding Olympic National Park lost nearly $4 million in visitor spending during the shutdown. Businesses surrounding Mount Rainier lost up to $1 million. But the shutdown was part of a long-term trend of broken budgeting harming national parks and threatening the visitor experience and the economic health of surrounding communities.

Our national parks offer an instructive lesson about why budget brinksmanship and the indiscriminate across-the-board sequester cuts demand a new approach. Sen. Murray is choosing the right fight in seeking a compromise that will end this damaging policy.

While the entrances to our national parks have been reopened, there are still “closed” signs on some campgrounds, visitor centers and historic structures and nearly 2,000 fewer rangers to help visitors due to sequestration. The ever-shrinking budget — down 13 percent since 2010 just to operate our national parks — is shortsighted and unsustainable.

Studies show that our national parks generate a $10 return for every $1 invested. National parks in Washington state alone support more than 3,800 jobs and produce upwards of $260 million in economic activity, according to 2011 reports.

It’s time to reinvest in our heritage. Nine in 10 voters — Republican, Democrat and Independent — do not want national park funding cut. Sen. Murray has reflected this bipartisan support with a budget that allows room for investing in national parks, which enjoy broad support, are economically important and are being harmed by the sequester.

Time will tell if the budget conferees also take this common ground into consideration and find the compromise necessary to end the damaging sequester.

Rob Smith is the Northwest regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association. This essay first appeared in The Olympian.


Kurt, something that I didn't expand on but was on my mind was the process employed getting the "ad nauseum" passed is becoming more the norm, including NPS. The public has never been more on the sidelines than now. Guess that's our problem in the end. Don't want to be the one to close down an interesting and revealing thread. Thanks for the forum.

This is not a forum to debate Obamacare ad nauseum, or differences between the political parties. Suffice to say there are differences out there, and some folks will debate them endlessly. So if there are no more comments germane to the post above, we'll close this one down.

What struck me in this thread was the acceptance of how Obamacare became law and how it's continuing to be implemented. One could gather that it all was based on lies and deception. I guess I might be naive to expect some truth, transparency and accountability in the process. I guess I am because I haven't seen it. Every interest group that has the President's ear has got either an exemption or tax payer dollars to reduce the impact by 75%. Numbers convey that Obamacare has never been popular by the majority of people. It's like many on here feel that the ends justify the means. Never has any legislation been passed that effects 1/6 of the economy with not a single vote from the minority party. Might it not be such a good idea? Politicians and buerocrats forcing, yes forcing things down our throats while exempting themselves and cronies. Something wrong with that picture?

Lee, I am not aware of any state park that destroyed the resources of it's own park. State or federal park visitors don't want resources destroyed. What I've seen is a claim of potential resource destruction but no evidence. I have seen biased junk science used as justification for maybe, could or possibly...

I'm not sure why you find this piece misleading. I think it is pretty factual.Just an FYI, Murry and Ryan are both the Chair of their respective committees and leaders of this committee, though Murray, being both senior and in the Senate, which has 22 memebers on the committee to the House's 7, is probably considered more the head of the joint-committee than Ryan.

Misleading on two counts, which I've already pointed out.

First, the NPCA op-ed piece doesn't even mention Paul Ryan.

For YOUR information, Rep. Ryan is indeed the Chair of this particular Budget Conference Committee because Congressional practice dictates that the House and Senate alternate chairmanship of conference committees. Since Senator Conrad was chair of the last Budget Conference Committee, that makes Ryan chair this time around, and Murray vice-chair. The number of conferees is irrelevant; each chamber can appoint as many as they wish, but a final agreement merely requires a majority of your chamber's votes. The Senate holds no greater leverage in this negotiation than does the House (One might also point out Article I, section 7, clause 1 of the Constitution). Technical, to be sure, but since you inquired... :-)

Second, while the sequster is a terrible way to set budget policy, Congress can still abide by the overall spending levels from now until 2021 without disaster. As I mentioned, if an overall budget resolution is agreed to, the appropriators can re-allocate funding at the department and program levels to mitigate the cuts.

I highly recommend Fix the Debt's sequester primer:

I didn't expect the NPCA to present the other side, but I thought that someone ought to.

"States have a vested interest in promoting visitation, the NPS does not."

But what if that vested interest promotes visitation to such a point that it destroys the resource?

States manage resources differently than federal agencies. States have a vested interest in promoting visitation, the NPS does not. States are not always forced into enacting laws or regulations that are not compatible because of some outside mandate. States have their own resource protection measures they developed by local knowledge, not based on some belief of some NPS beaurcrat in Colorado.

I've seen these mandates abused to achieve idealogical goals or appease polilitically connected NGOs. Unfortunately, the NPS seems to always side with the NGOs and usually with detriment to the visitor experience.

Bottom line is if the NPS doesn't want to loose control of the parks they are accused of mismanaging, they better start changing.

Thanks for the response Mr. Smith. It tells me I've succeeded in pricking the conscience that you would bother to respond. Keep enjoying that retirement I will keep working to see that more and more of us who believed the false promises of the agency will maybe get to one day enjoy some kind of retirement ourselves. If they one day start dividing up headquarter and regional office positions into seasonal jobs maybe then we'll see the CNPSR send out some scathing statements about it. How about that? Maybe we could get some regional office jobs that work six months and then hand it off to someone else to work for six months --that wouldn't violate the law would it?

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