Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) November 25, 2013
As members of Congress work to find agreement through a budget conference before December 13, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today released a new infographic that offers insights into how national parks and communities nationwide have suffered from ongoing funding cuts and the recent closure of parks during the government shutdown.
NPCA is calling on Congress to end a cycle of fiscal uncertainty by agreeing on a budget deal, ending sequestration cuts and restoring funding to America’s national parks. Parks have seen eroding funding for years including a steady stream of cuts since 2010 and are now operating at 2002 funding levels, taking into consideration sequestration and other cuts, as well as inflation. Over the past three years, the budget to operate national parks has been cut by 13 percent, or $315 million in today's dollars. And further decreases in funding are scheduled to kick in next year as part of sequestration.
“It’s time for Congress to end the mindless sequester budget cuts and prevent a repeat of that horrible mistake,” said Craig Obey, NPCA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. “The Park Service budget represents just one-fifteenth of one percent of our federal budget—roughly half of the portion it was 30 years ago. Yet, in October we were all reminded that the $31 billion the parks generate each year is critical for local economies across the country. An investment in national parks is an investment in the financial stability of communities, as well as in the legacy we leave our kids.”
The release of the infographic comes on the heels of a Hart Research Associates poll released earlier this week showing tremendous support for national parks by the voting public, without regard for party affiliation. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said there should be no additional cuts in spending for national parks and public lands in order to reduce the deficit.
Over the last decade, the National Park Service construction budget has declined by nearly 70 percent in today's dollars. Continuous cuts have forced national park superintendents to delay the opening of parks or park roads; close visitor centers, picnic areas and campgrounds; and decreased the number of rangers who protect and maintain parks. And with the recent closure of national parks during the government shutdown, local communities lost more than a half a billion dollars in revenue – creating lasting and detrimental effects on national parks and the people who depend on them.
The infographic also details the cost of delayed maintenance of roads and infrastructure. The more Congress cuts National Park Service funding for construction and maintenance, the more the buildings and roads fall apart and are in need of extensive work, causing lasting damage and higher costs in the long run. NPCA is calling on Congress to address the nearly $12 billion National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog.
The infographic shows the widespread economic harm that occurs when parks are closed or have their budgets cut. For example, Bar Harbor, Maine outside Acadia National Park experienced a 30 percent loss in local business revenue last spring as a result of the March sequester cuts. The government shutdown only made matters worse. Acadia typically experiences a rush of tourists during the long Columbus Day weekend. However, this year, they were forced to turn visitors away. One hotel in Bar Harbor reported a loss of $33,000 during the two week government shutdown, while another hotel reported 182 room cancellations.
Former Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway Phil Francis is also quoted in the infographic about the recent closure of national parks in October, which is high visitation season for many parks across the country. In a recent press briefing Francis said, “It’s like closing a shopping mall at Christmas time. It’s the time of year where you either make it, or don’t make it.”
Additional facts highlighted in the infographic include:
NPCA says if no congressional budget agreement is reached, there will be more challenges when current funding expires on January 15, 2014. Absent agreement, another government shutdown could occur at that point. For more information about park funding needs, visit: http://www.npca.org/funding.