President Bush today proposed $2.4 billion in fiscal year 2009 for the National Park Service, including $2.13 billion for operation of the National Park System. This $160.9 million increase over the FY 2008 request for park operations will bolster visitor services and protect park resources and facilities. National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomarlauded the budget proposal saying, “This increase will help the National Park Service prepare for our centennial in 2016 by focusing resources on vital aspects of our mission.”
The request includes increases of nearly $45 million for targeted park base core operations, $36 million for parks’ fixed costs, $22.8 million for cyclic maintenance, $20 million for natural resource health and $ 8.0 million for Service-wide training and professional development programs. The natural resource projects will work to restore natural lands by controlling invasive plant species and re-introducing native plants. The training and development program will prepare a new generation of park managers to guide the National Park Service into the next century.
A $5.2 million increase for five southwest parks will be used to increase law enforcement staffing levels in multi-agency border operations as part of Interior’s Safe Borderlands Initiative. The funding will be distributed to Amistad National Recreation Area, Big Bend National Park, Coronado National Memorial, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Padre Island National Seashore.
This funding increase includes $1 million to restore resources in these five parks and in six other border parks that have suffered significant environmental damage due to drug traffickers and undocumented persons traversing the parks. The additional parks are Chamizal National Memorial, Chiracahua National Monument, Ft. Bowie National Historic Site, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, Saguaro National Park and Tumacacori National Historical Park.
The FY 2009 budget includes $10 million for Preserve America and $15 million for Save America’s Treasures. President and First Lady Laura Bush launched Preserve America in 2003. This initiative encourages states and local communities to partner with the federal government to preserve the fabric of the American story. To date, 521 communities in all 50 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been designated as Preserve America communities.
The National Park Service will also coordinate and provide grants at the state level to establish a national inventory of historic properties. The initiative is one of the recommendations of a 2006 Preserve America Summit. The FY 2009 proposal includes an increase of more than $1 million for Civil War battlefield grants. The grants are used with matching state or local funds to purchase land or acquire permanent, protective interests in land at Civil War battlefields listed in the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission’s 1993 Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields.
In addition to a promising FY 2009 budget, the National Park Service could benefit from another $200 million as the result of President Bush’s Centennial Challenge. President Bush last year called for an annual account of up to $100.0 million of federal money to be matched each year by $100 million of donations from the American people to engage people with their parks and to prepare national parks for another century of preservation, conservation and enjoyment.
The 2009 budget includes a mandatory funding request for a Centennial Challenge fund and requires legislation to create it. Director Bomar said, “The potential power of the Centennial Challenge is unprecedented in the history of our organization. We are hopeful that Congress will seize this opportunity to be part of a historic moment. Our partners are committed to this effort, and we are thankful to the President and Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne for their visionary leadership.”
In FY 2008, the National Park Service received from Congress an appropriation of nearly $25 million for Centennial Challenge projects and programs. Director Bomar said, “We are ready to double Americans’ money on centennial projects and programs by leveraging this $25 million into more than $50 million of benefits across the United States.”
The National Park Service FY 2009 budget reduces funding for land acquisition, Land and Water Conservation Fund state grants, National Recreation and Preservation, and the Historic Preservation Fund, largely as a result of reducing congressional increases. The construction account is reduced by $46.0 million below the 2008 enacted level; however, overall asset management for the national parks is funded at $989 million, $10 million above the 2008 level.
Editor’s note: The National Park Service FY2009 budget is at www.nps.gov/budget