Funding cuts are pushing national parks to breaking point



I worked for the National Park Service for 41 years, working in program offices, battlefield sites, and large national parks such as Shenandoah, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Yosemite. I retired nearly 11 years before he did and became an advocate and member of the United States National Parks Conservation Coalition, where I currently serve as its National Parks Chair.

In over 50 years, the National Park System has never been adequately funded. This is unacceptable.

More than five months into fiscal year 2024, Congress has finally passed several spending bills that include funding for the National Park Service and other public land agencies. Thanks to recently passed legislation, we were thankfully able to avoid another complete government shutdown.

I am grateful for the efforts of eminent domainers to reach a compromise and to avoid proposed anti-environmental policies that could further harm our national parks and public lands, as well as the wildlife that live there. I’m especially happy that they rejected the worst of them all. The same goes for our country’s clean air and water.

But the unfortunate reality is that the National Park Service’s fiscal year 2024 budget is reduced by $150 million from fiscal year 2023 levels. Last year’s funding was not enough to restore lost staffing levels, and further cuts and inflationary pressures will only exacerbate the chronic problems plaguing the National Park Service.

National parks and the programs and offices that support them are understaffed. Over the years, as the number of visitors to national parks has increased, the number of National Park Service employees available to fully and safely operate national parks has decreased by more than 3,000 people.

Between 2012 and 2022, national park staff numbers decreased by 13%, but visitor numbers increased by 10%. And the NPS budget is less than one-fifteenth of 1% of the federal budget. Rising cost of living and inflation have absorbed the small budget increases seen over the years.

National Park Service employees are overworked and underpaid as the agency struggles to maintain basic operations. No wonder employee morale is so low.

I don’t understand why Congress would refuse to invest more in our national parks when they are so important to local economies and the American people. From a high-minded perspective, they provide spaces of adventure, shelter, and fun for millions of Americans. From a practical point of view, they help protect irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and convey the history of our country. And from a purely economic perspective, the $3 billion we invest in our national parks adds $50.3 billion to our national economy and supports 378,400 jobs.

Simply put, national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife reserves all need more funding. Parks and program offices need to hire more staff to protect resources and provide a safe and memorable experience for visitors. The agency will tackle critical repair projects and crumbling infrastructure, address the effects of climate change, and provide additional affordable housing so parks can hire the staff they need to operate during peak seasons. requires additional funds.

2024 will be a tough year for national parks and public lands. The “do more with less” mode of operation is reaching breaking point. More facilities such as campgrounds and visitor centers will close to save money. Tours and programs are canceled. Visitors are already feeling the effects of budget shortfalls, but it will get worse.

It is long past time for Congress to recognize the importance of national parks and public lands. We call for more funding to be allocated to national park systems and other land management and environmental protection agencies by 2025.

Time is running out to truly protect our national parks and public lands for future generations.

Phil Francis has worked for the National Park Service for more than 40 years and is chairman of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *