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So What if the NPS Needs to Cinch Its Financial Belt?


    There's been much outcry and gnashing of teeth in recent weeks about the National Park Service's funding problems. Newspapers throughout the country have either bemoaned the lack of $$$ in editorials or written stories about how their local national parks are suffering.
    Well, there's at least one writer out there who thinks all the moaning should stop. Scott Milford, editorial page editor for the Wisconsin State Journal, is all for innovative park management (who isn't?), and is happy just to see the parks' landscape without all the fixin's, such as interpretive programming.
    You can read his thoughts here. I don't disagree with everything he says. Closing one relatively seldom-visited visitors center in Rocky Mountain National Park so a more popular center can stay open longer makes good sense.
    However, we as a nation can't afford to let our national parks and their many facilities, many of which are historical and speak poignant volumes of our nation's history, shouldn't be allowed to fall further into disrepair, certainly not at a time when we're spending $2.3 million on "animal waste management,"  $1 million on waterless urinals, $1.7 million on "berry research" in Alaska, and $250,000 for "asparagus technology and production."
    Meeting our national parks' needs does not require pushing the nation deeper into debt. It merely requires some prudent spending decisions in Washington, D.C.


Its worth noting that in a below post, you described a $150 million increase in the Park Service's operating budget a "drop in the bucket." If that's so, then when wonders what the $5 million in earmarks you listed above amount to. Don't get me wrong, I find Congressional pork barrell earmarking to be positively outrageous, but it also seems imprecise to list these things as primary examples for the underfunding of the Park Service. Moreover, I think it is worth mentioning that $150 million would constitute at 8.6% increase for the Park Service's operating budget. Rather than dismissin it as a "drop in the bucket," particularly in this time of fiscal belt-tightening at the federal level, I think we should instead be mobilizing to write our Congressional representatives to support this proposal. Not only is 8.6% the best the Park Service can hope for in the current fiscal environment, 8.6% would also certainly make a real difference to the Parks.

John, you're right,of course. I shouldn't have so quickly dismissed Sen. Thomas's bid to see $150 million added to the Park Service's 2007 budget. However, when you realize that President Bush already has cut $100 million from the agency's budget, that $150 million would equate to only a $50 million increase above current funding levels. Plus, with the agency annually running a $600 million shortfall, that net $50 million really won't go terribly far. Beyond that, while the above post references only about $5 million in earmarks, my "Pigs and Parks" post of April 16 noted that some $27 BILLION in earmarks -- pork -- have been added to various pieces of legislation. Redirect a bit more than a quarter of that pork to the parks and the maintenance backlog, most recently calculated at $5 billion system-wide, will be erased. Hell, I'm sure the Park Service would be grateful if it received just an extra $1 billion. Kurt

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