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National Parks Conservation Association Calls President's National Parks Budget Proposal Insufficient

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President Obama's $2.7 billion FY2011 budget proposal for the National Park Service is insufficient and fails to keep pace with his pledge to restore the National Park System by 2016, the National Parks Conservation Association said Monday.

At a time when visitors are returning in large numbers to the national parks, when the destinations serve both as affordable vacation retreats and educational classrooms, the country should be investing more aggressively in the National Park System, not holding the line, the advocacy group said.

"We must ensure they are fully protected and staffed," NPCA President Tom Kiernan said in a release.

NPCA pointed out that, compared to the overall federal budget, the Park Service budget is very small—only one tenth of 1 percent. “Providing parks the funds needed to serve visitors and protect resources is a tiny investment in our national heritage, and will provide economic benefits and jobs in struggling communities nationwide,” said Mr. Kiernan.

According to the group's analysis of the budget request, nearly $100 million in park programs would be reduced or eliminated—including Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America grants— "and parks are left without funding to pay for cost-of-living adjustments for staff."

The operations budget proposal does not come close to meeting the $100 million request by the National Park Second Century Commission, and is insufficient to maintain current park operations and visitor services, NPCA concluded. Additionally, the budget includes a $44 million decrease for construction and maintenance needs. The budget reductions mean that the proposed $35 million increase for park operations fails to fund basic Park Service needs, said the group.

NPCA also said the president's proposal will reverse recent successes in trimming the Park Service's annual operating deficit from roughly $850 annually to about $580 million.

"This budget will reverse that progress, while also adding to a backlog of maintenance needs that already exceeds $9 billion," the group said. "Additional investments would protect cultural sites and historic buildings; repair the parks’ crumbling infrastructure; and improve educational opportunities for students and schools."

A recent study commissioned by NPCA found that every dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars economic value to the public—supporting approximately $13 billion of local private-sector economic activity and nearly 270,000 private sector jobs.

“Our national parks provide all Americans with a place to reconnect with families, our shared heritage, and the values that make this nation great,” said Mr. Kiernan. “Leaders who invest in our national parks prepare a legacy for America’s future generations.”

As recommended by National Parks Second Century Commission in its final report to Congress and the administration, NPCA is advocating for a multi-year commitment that reduces the operating shortfall by at least $100 million per year, as well as an additional $500 million to meet the construction and maintenance needs of our national parks.

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