WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama released his proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2017 on Tuesday, calling for significant increases in funding for the National Park Service as the agency celebrates its centennial year.
“The president’s proposed budget, which significantly increases funding for national parks, further shows the president’s commitment to protecting and restoring America’s favorite places,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The investments called for in this budget proposal, including increasing funding for the Centennial Challenge program along with fully funding and permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, will be vital to the long-term future of the Park Service as it celebrates its centennial this year.”
Last year, Congress increased funding for the Park Service in its omnibus spending bill after years of insufficient budgets. That bill provided a much-needed boost for the Park Service, and the president’s proposal continues that progress toward preparing parks for their next century of service.
“Despite this encouraging movement away from years of damaging budget constraints that have harmed our parks, they still face significant challenges,” Pierno said. “The Park Service continues to lack the funding needed just to keep up with its now near $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, the construction account central to addressing half of this backlog remains more than 60 percent below its level 15 years ago in today’s dollars.”
There are not enough rangers and other staff to protect nationally-significant resources and handle the record-breaking crowds heading to the parks, she said.
“Our parks preserve and protect some of America’s most treasured natural, historic and cultural sites. We must work together to ensure parks have the funding and resources they need to fulfill that mission,” she said in a statement. “One of the most important ways Congress can support parks as they move into their next century of service is to make sure next year’s budget includes significant increases to the agency’s maintenance and operations accounts.”
The Park Service needs these resources to tackle overdue repairs, fill vacant ranger positions, leverage philanthropic support, protect parks from development, and allow our parks to thrive in their second century. These increases, coupled with passage of a bipartisan Centennial Act that provides additional funding and supportive policy provisions, will ensure the parks are better prepared for another hundred years.
• An overall $250 million, 9% increase in appropriated funding for the National Park Service;
• A $155 million, 7% increase for the operation of national parks (to $2.52 billion), including a $49 million, 49% increase for repair and rehabilitation projects and a $47 million increase for cyclic maintenance;
• A $59 million, 31% increase (to $252 million in the construction account) for large repair and improvement projects;
• A $5 million, 7% increase in funding for Park Service federal Land and Water Conservation Fund projects ($68 million total) and policy support for a path to permanent, full funding and permanent reauthorization;
• A $20 million, 133% increase in appropriated funding for the Centennial Challenge program that will leverage at least as much in private dollars, and a policy proposal for mandatory funding of $100 million annually for three years;
• Funding to advance important Everglades restoration projects, which total $190 million, including approximately $106 million for the Army Corps of Engineers, $63 million for DOI, and $21 million for USDA; • A policy proposal for $300 million annually for three years for a Second Century Infrastructure Investment projects that help address the maintenance backlog;
• A disappointing 55% reduction (to $10 million) for the Heritage Partnership Program that revives historic and cultural sites and bolsters heritage tourism;
• A policy proposal for a new funding framework for catastrophic wildfires that compromise the ability of congressional appropriators to invest in parks and other needs;
• $20 million for the Every Kid in a Park initiative that promotes free park visits for fourth graders and their families; and
• In future years, lifting the budgetary sequester that has been damaging to parks.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.