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Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation     


Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation
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House and Senate Hold Hearings on Centennial Fund Parks
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com - Subcommittees on National Parks, National Parks Centennial Challenge Fund, National Park maintenance backlog, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Contributed By: The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Department of Public Policy
Email The Author: pr@nthp.org
Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org

The House and Senate Subcommittees on National Parks held hearings on August 2nd on the National Parks Centennial Challenge Fund legislative proposals introduced this year. These proposals were introduced in response to the Bush Administration’s original centennial fund proposal outlined in its fiscal year 2008 budget, which would increase funding for the National Parks System by $300 million annually over 10 years ($3 billion total) as part of a national effort to eliminate the maintenance backlogs in the parks in time for the System’s centennial celebration in 2016. However, the centennial fund money would not be used exclusively for maintenance. The bill (HR 3094) provides 30 percent of its funding for line-item construction and maintenance as well as money for each of the following areas: (1) 10 percent for projects under the Diversity in Parks; (2) 10 percent for projects under the Support for Park Professionals; (3) 10 percent for projects under the Environmental Leadership; (4) 10 percent for projects under the Natural Resource Protection Centennial Initiative; and (5) 30 percent for projects under the Education in Parks Centennial Initiative. A similar bill (HR 2959) would use Centennial program funding to carry out signature projects “that will help prepare the national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment.”

The National Trust and its preservation partners are supportive of the centennial initiative effort — particularly in terms of addressing maintenance issues as they affect historic and cultural resources in the parks. However, there are preservation concerns about the other aspects of the proposal, including:

  • what budgetary offsets the administration might use to pay for the measure;
  • the importance of finding a balanced approach when choosing “signature projects” and ensuring the process includes Congress and the public;
  • ensuring that funding from the Centennial Challenge does not come at the expense of other National Parks programs; and
  • supporting the philanthropic aspects of the centennial program without overtly encouraging commercialization and corporate sponsorship of parks.

National Park Service (NPS) Director Mary Bomar testified at both hearings and emphasized the National Park Service’s commitment to work with the over 300 “friends of the parks” groups to emphasize the philanthropic, private funding portion of the centennial challenge proposal. However, Tom Kiernan of the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) and National Parks Friends Alliance was said the $100 million offered in the Administration’s budget for the centennial initiative “needs to part of a concerted, multi-year effort for funding our parks.” Kiernan and other witnesses, such as Vin Cipolla from the National Park Foundation, reiterated this point and cited the chronic $800 million annual budget shortfall that the parks have endured over time and the $6 to $10 billion estimated backlog in maintenance. Cipolla also noted that the Administration’s centennial proposal also made no mention of using “inkind contributions” to meet the private-sector match requirement in the proposal for the federal share of $100 million. He also said the proposal overlooked the smaller parks without “friends groups,” which need to be included as part of the proposal to ensure they are not left out in the cold because they don’t have private-sector support to meet the match requirement.

In the House hearing, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) advocated using a check-off on individual income tax returns as another possible funding mechanism to fund the Centennial initiative. Souder was addressing the House subcommittee panel’s questions regarding the drain on the national parks’ existing budget resources, which have been under strain from unexpected needs such as meeting homeland security requirements imposed by the federal government in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Reprinted by permission of the Public Policy Department of the National Trust


Keywords: Subcommittees on National Parks, National Parks Centennial Challenge Fund, National Park maintenance backlog, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Posted: August 6, 2007
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Unless noted, the thoughts and opinions expressed in the article are solely that of the
author and not necessarily the opinion of the editors of PreservationDirectory.com.
   



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