The National Parks Conservation Association today praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the largest funding increase ever provided for America’s national parks, making great strides in rectifying the annual funding shortfalls that have crippled parks for years. The House bill also includes $50 million to begin funding the proposed National Park Centennial Challenge public-private matching grant program.
“This budget puts our parks on the road to recovery in time for their centennial—less than ten years away,” said National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan. “The national parks owe a debt of gratitude to Chairman Norm Dicks for his extraordinary leadership. We thank him and the House for their support for America’s heritage.”
Over the past few years, national parks have been forced to absorb fixed costs and other unfunded requirements like homeland security. The National Parks Conservation Association estimates that national parks now suffer from a chronic, $800-million annual operating shortfall.
The fiscal year 2008 House Interior Appropriations bill provides $2.5 billion for the National Park Service, an increase of $223 million above fiscal year 2007. The bill meets the Administration’s request to put 3,000 seasonal rangers back in the parks through an operations increase of approximately $200 million, and provides $25 million above the Administration’s request for National Park Service federal land acquisition, so that national parks can acquire lands threatened by development. The bill also includes $50 million to begin funding the proposed National Park Centennial Challenge public-private matching grant program.
“This budget is an excellent down payment on what must be a multi-year, multi-pronged effort to restore the national parks before their centennial in 2016,” Kiernan added. “Taking care of our national parks should be a national priority. As the bill moves through the legislative process, we encourage Congress to support this critical funding.”
Earlier this year, 87 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 40 U.S. Senators signed bipartisan letters to their appropriations committees seeking additional funding for national parks in the fiscal year 2008 budget.