A proposed budget deal approved by a more than 3-to-1 margin in the House Thursday and headed to the U.S. Senate this week could reverse cuts that has forced the National Park Service to lay off park rangers and close visitor centers and roads, the National Parks Conservation Association said.
NCPA said cuts imposed by budget sequesters have triggered the layoff of 2,000 park rangers since the start of the fiscal year 2013 on Oct. 1, 2012. The budget approved by the House last week restores most of those cuts, but does not guarantee that the congressional appropriations committees will provide the resources the parks need to put needed rangers back in parks or address a decades-old maintenance backlog.
“The budget deal opens the door for congressional appropriators to do a better job for America’s national parks, their visitors, and local economies, than has been the case in recent times, though this is not guaranteed,” said Craig Obey, SVP of government affairs for the NCPA.
In the near term, NCPA is asking leaders in Congress, especially appropriations committee members, to better address national park needs within the confines of the current budget deal. Over the long-term, it is urging Congress to pursue an additional compromise that gets at the real causes of our deficit and helps to grow the economy.
National parks comprise just one-fifteenth of one percent of the federal budget but support more than $31 billion in annual spending and more than 250,000 jobs, according to figures cited by NCPA.
“As the National Park Service prepares for its centennial in 2016, we urge President Obama and Congress to leave a lasting legacy by proposing a robust investment in America’s national parks,” said Obey. “An investment in this and next year‘s budgets would help parks and economies recover from this damaging budget trend as they prepare for this historic occasion.”