The Trump administration’s FY18 budget proposes serious cuts to the National Park Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that, if enacted, would jeopardize the protection, maintenance and operation of national parks across the country, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.
The budget calls for a 13 percent cut to the Park Service that would be the largest cut to the agency since World War II, if enacted. The budget purports to significantly increase maintenance, but funding for deferred maintenance is actually decreased in the administration’s proposal. The budget includes reductions in support for historic preservation and interpretation, community-based recreation and other park programs. It undermines the National Heritage Area program and nearly zeroes out land acquisition funds critical to protecting park lands from commercial or residential development.
The proposed budget also calls for a 31 percent cut to the EPA, the agency responsible for implementing and enforcing laws like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act so park visitors can breathe healthy air, swim in clean water and enjoy scenic vistas unmarred by haze pollution. It includes eliminating critical ecosystem restoration programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the South Florida Program.
“This budget undermines our national parks to an alarming degree. Agencies like the National Park Service and EPA are already operating on shoestring budgets, and this budget, if enacted, will only make a bad situation worse. It shortchanges the need for better maintenance and repair of parks, and cuts more than a thousand rangers out of our parks,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, NPCA.
“From the start, this administration acknowledged the value of our nation’s parks—from the President donating his first paycheck to repair national park battlefields, to our new Secretary of the Interior’s interest in decreasing the National Park Service backlog. Unfortunately, this budget doesn’t value our parks, and instead presents cuts that would be deeply damaging to them.
In related news, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Will Hurd (R-TX), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) introduced a bipartisan bill to jump start overdue maintenance projects in national parks. A companion to Senate bill S.751, the National Park Service Legacy Act would provide investments that would go toward reducing the more than $11 billion backlog the National Park Service faces to repair roads, visitor facilities, trails, and other park structures.
“This bipartisan, bicameral proposal makes a strong investment that our parks desperately need and deserve. Parks unify people, and Congress should be no different. Lawmakers should seize this opportunity, put forth by Representatives Hurd, Kilmer, Hanabusa, and Reichert, to help fix our parks and recognize the value they provide,” Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, National Parks Conservation Association.
The House and Senate National Park Service Legacy Act bills demonstrate that funding for our national parks is a bipartisan priority. Thankfully, it is our elected representatives in Congress that have the power to deliberate and pass the budget. The inbound travel community must loudly voice support for national parks funding to their Congressional representatives and encourage them to pass a budget that sustains and improves America’s national treasures.