Grassroots Environmental Organization Raises Cry For Better National Park Funding

An environmental organization with chapters in a handful of Eastern states has launched a campaign to get the public to lobby Congress for better funding for national parks.

Environment America, which has has chapters in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Rhode Island, last week sent out two-page reports listing impacts the budget sequestration had on units of the National Park System across the country. (You can find the complete report covering the entire park system here.)

“From Yellowstone to the Everglades, our country’s parks saw seasonal staffing slashed, educational programs cancelled and in some instances saw some sections of parks closed to visitors entirely this past summer,” said Aaron Weil, conservation advocate with Environment America. “We don’t want death by a thousand cuts for our national parks.”

The message is not necessarily new, as organizations such as the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, just to name two, have been calling on Congress to do a better job with NPS funding. But the approach is somewhat unique in that the organization had its state chapters alert local media with their report, Death by a Thousand Cuts.

Each chapter's report was basically a two-page PDF with bullet points about how the budget sequestration a year ago impacted parks in the various states. For instance, when it comes to Massachusetts, the report notes:

* Lowell National Historical Park lost $412,000 from its budget, a cut that led the superintendent to "cut all funding to an outdoor youth theater program..."

* At Cape Cod National Seashore, the lost of $376,000 forced the superintendent to reduce his seasonal ranger force by 10 positions and to cancel "nearly half of all education and recreation programs."

Elsewhere in the National Park System, the reports note that:

* Isle Royale National Park in Michigan closed its north and south shore ranger stations at Malone Bay and Amygdaloidal Island because of the lost funding;

* At Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota, the $67,000 cut "forced the park superintendent to reduce hours and close entirely during predetermined weeks throughout the summer";

* At Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylania and New Jersey, a cut of $473,224 led to a 17-position reduction in seasonal hires and weekend closure of the Dingmans Falls Visitor Center during the peak summer season.

You find the entire report here and learn how other parks handled their budget cuts.

“Let’s give our parks a new start in 2014,” said Mr. Weil. “If we continue on this path, our grandchildren could be forced to explore parking lots and fracking wells instead of river valleys and mountaintops.

“In addition to their wealth of beauty and wonder, our parks generate more than $30 billion in revenue every year, and support more than 250,000 jobs,” he added. “Defunding our parks is like shooting ourselves in the foot.”