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Op-Ed: Let's Compromise To Support The National Parks


Rob Smith, NPCA's Pacific Northwest Region director.

There is a place to start coming together on the federal budget, and Sen. Patty Murray is well-suited to lead the way as chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee and a leader in the current, difficult budget negotiations. Shutting down the government — and our national parks — is simply not a reasonable choice.

In addition to disrupting long-planned vacations, relocating weddings, and spoiling other events, communities surrounding Olympic National Park lost nearly $4 million in visitor spending during the shutdown. Businesses surrounding Mount Rainier lost up to $1 million. But the shutdown was part of a long-term trend of broken budgeting harming national parks and threatening the visitor experience and the economic health of surrounding communities.

Our national parks offer an instructive lesson about why budget brinksmanship and the indiscriminate across-the-board sequester cuts demand a new approach. Sen. Murray is choosing the right fight in seeking a compromise that will end this damaging policy.

While the entrances to our national parks have been reopened, there are still “closed” signs on some campgrounds, visitor centers and historic structures and nearly 2,000 fewer rangers to help visitors due to sequestration. The ever-shrinking budget — down 13 percent since 2010 just to operate our national parks — is shortsighted and unsustainable.

Studies show that our national parks generate a $10 return for every $1 invested. National parks in Washington state alone support more than 3,800 jobs and produce upwards of $260 million in economic activity, according to 2011 reports.

It’s time to reinvest in our heritage. Nine in 10 voters — Republican, Democrat and Independent — do not want national park funding cut. Sen. Murray has reflected this bipartisan support with a budget that allows room for investing in national parks, which enjoy broad support, are economically important and are being harmed by the sequester.

Time will tell if the budget conferees also take this common ground into consideration and find the compromise necessary to end the damaging sequester.

Rob Smith is the Northwest regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association. This essay first appeared in The Olympian.


Let's wish Sen. Murray luck and success.

It's been downright funny here in Utah to watch as our Senator Mike Lee, who was Ted Cruz's faithful tail wagging puppy throughout that ludicrous mess, tries desperately to recover from the hit he took in public opinion even in this red, red state. His "town hall meetings" are all very carefully controlled to prevent anyone attending from asking any questions or making any comments that might be embarrassing for the senator. As a result, he or his handlers apparently had managed to convince themselves that -- as he once claimed -- 100% percent of his constituents were in full support of his misguided efforts.

A little reality must have seeped through the fortress walls and now he's trying desperately to reach out to those voters who are not extremists while still keeping them happy, too. He's claiming the shutdown was successful in driving home the point they were trying to make, but now it's time for some good ol' bipartisan work. He may even have used that forbidden C word a couple of times when he thought his listeners were not wearing tricorner hats with tea bags hanging from them.

It's refreshing to know that there are actually some sensible heads in the Senate. We need to give thanks to Senator Murray and be ready to support her efforts.

I'm no Mike Lee supporter at all but I think your minimizing Senator Lee's efforts might be a bit premature. If you remember, the rationale for Mike Lee's antics was to prevent implementation of the ACA by first defunding and ultimately to delay the individual mandate all because he believed it was such a disaster. Both strategies included full funding for everything else (including the NPS). Now guess what, the ACA is being protrayed as a disaster and many in Utah (and the US) believe that. If the bad press on ACA doesn't stop pretty soon, Mike Lee might have the last laugh come a year from now (when new Rs get elected to both the house and senate because of the ACA disaster). While I applaud, Senator Murray's efforts, she likely has zero chance of prevailing in this congress (as she probably knows) with the republicans saying to all democrats you had your chance to get the NPS fully funded. Her efforts are pretty much theatre for other democratic senators in 2014.

Most of this portrayal - a good choice of words - of the ACA as a 'disaster' comes from those who have spent the past few years fighting it tooth and nail, including those right wing activists who have been documented as attempting to hack the website. It is too easy to sit back and wait for someone to stub their toe and then to point out how they are incompetent at walking, and then to spoon feed the characterization in sound bites to tame and lazy media.The comparison of this as "Obama's Katrina" is sick and wrong - a website that has some gliches in it's roll out is entirely different from the lack of compassion and organizational disarray that contributed to many deaths.

The latest Tea Party/Rebulican attempt to "solve" our National Park funding problem:

States should manage...

And if that won't provide enough money:

Drilling, Fracking, and Pipelines

Rick, portrayal of the ACA as a disaster is spot on. There are way more problems than judst website glitches. The whole thing is based on a series of lies and the website has major aritchtecual design flaws. Critical components of the website haven't been completed yet and they all knew it but for solely political reasons they are attempting to ram down our throats. Something the Democrats will regret for decades. I guess they should have read it before they passed it.

dahkota - Both sound reasonable to me, whats your objection?

Beachbumb, I guess that Rick B has missed the fact that millions of people have been thrown off their current insurance and another 50-100 million are expected to in the future. On top of that doctors are quitting or being dropped and the cost of healthcare and insurance is going up and people are losing their work hours if not their jobs. The website is the least of the the problems of ACA although it is indicative of effectiveness of the central government. 16 state exchanges up and running without meaningful problems. The federal exchange a disaster.

Dahkota, tell me again why the states shouldn't be running the parks and managing fracking rules.

Not taking a side either way on the ACA rollout, but it would be interesting to hear some of the criticism that arose with the arrival of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

More recently, circa 2006 under President George W. Bush, the Medicare Part D program for prescriptions was rolled out. Some of the reaction/comments?

" early 2006, there were days when I thought we could crash at any moment. For several weeks, the rollout of Medicare Part D felt like a runaway train — bumpy, uncomfortable, unnerving..." -- Michael O. Leavitt, who oversaw that program's introduction as secretary of Health and Human Services.

In the end?

"The program is considered a tremendous success: Premiums have remained low, the program operates well under its projected budget and 90 percent of seniors are satisfied with their plan," he also noted in a recent op-ed piece for the Washington Post.

There also was opposition to Medicare when it was launched in the 1960s:

Yet it's considered a tremendous program by many these days.

No doubt there are other examples. The lesson seems to be don't be too quick to point to "disasters."

EC, re "millions of people have been thrown off their current insurance," from what I've heard many of those instances (all?), were the result of their policies not meeting the standards set down under ACA....and supposedly the program outlined would provide better benefits at reduced cost. Of course, that remains to be seen in the long(er) run.

As for states running the national parks, as has been noted many times over the months, many states are struggling to manage their own state parks. And really, do you want the potential of 50 different standards for managing the national parks?

many of those instances (all?), were the result of their policies not meeting the standards set down under ACA....and supposedly the program outlined would provide better benefits at reduced cost

Yes - they were thrown off because their policies didn't meet the standards - an event that Obama promised wouldn't happened even though he knew it would.

"Better benefits"??? Who is Obama to define what I need to be insured for? Do I and my post menopausal wife really need to be insured for pregnacy coverage and free contraceptives? My preference is to self insure for all but catastrophic events. I am willing to take that risk at no cost to society but Obamacare doesn't let me do that. No the benefits aren't better and the evidence is clear the cost isn't reduced. How could you possibly increase benefits and reduce costs when you do nothing to address the actual cost of healthcare.

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