Posts Tagged ‘National Parks Conservation Association’

Having already grown accustomed to a dwindling budget in recent years, the National Park Service is now facing the prospect of a decade of across-the-board cuts starting at nearly 8 percent in 2013 plus a cap on discretionary spending that will be in effect from 2012 through 2021.

What this could mean is shorter seasons at some national parks, staff reductions, deferred infrastructure maintenance, campground closings, reduced amenities and, perhaps, increased real estate development within park boundaries, among other cost-cutting casualties, according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

“Across the park system, it is fair to say that superintendents will be forced to make tough decisions,” said John Garder, the NPCA’s budget and appropriations legislative representative in Washington DC.

In November, the NPCA released a report stating that in fiscal year 2011 the National Park Service had funding reduced by $140 million, including $11.5 million for operations. Since 2002, the report states, the agency’s discretionary budget has decreased from $3 billion to $2.6 billion in today’s dollars.

The organization’s report arrives at a time when the nation is mired in debate over how to trim the federal government’s deficit. The Budget Control Act of 2011, enacted in August, calls for cutting the deficit by roughly $900 billion through caps on discretionary spending beginning in 2012 and ending in 2021. Those spending caps will affect the national park system.

The Budget Control Act also established a deficit-reduction supercommittee, which failed to meet its late-November deadline for devising a plan to trim the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. The committee’s failure means Congress now has a year to agree on its own legislation before sequestration takes effect in 2013, setting off a decade of automatic cuts.

If Congress fails, automatic 7.8 percent cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, including the National Park Service, will be implemented in 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. After that, these programs will endure cuts between 5.5 and 7.8 percent through 2021.

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America’s national parks suffer from a “serious illness,” but a conservation group is pointing to a multipronged cure:

Boost funding, protect artifacts, rein in development, guard against climate change, enforce environmental laws, control non-native species, reintroduce native ones and even create more parks.

So recommends the National Parks Conservation Association, which urged the Obama administration Tuesday to develop a long-term plan to address the many challenges facing the National Park Service and provided a road map for action in its “State of America’s National Parks” report.

The organization, a nonprofit park-advocacy group, hopes to see information from the report, which studied 80 of the 394 National Park Service units over 10 years, used in a five-year plan leading up to the 100th anniversary of the park service in 2016.

“Our national parks are places we go for reflection, inspiration and connection to our national heritage — they are places we as Americans decided to protect to showcase where America’s story has unfolded. But new data shows that our national parks are in serious jeopardy,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “As we approach the centennial of the National Park Service, we have a responsibility to ensure our American treasures are preserved and protected for the future.”

Among the report’s key findings:
• Nearly all of the parks studied had at least one wildlife or plant species that has disappeared from its boundaries. Invasive species are crowding out native ones.
• More than 60 percent of the parks have compromised air quality and many endure serious water-quality threats.
• Two-thirds of the park service’s units are designed to protect important historic or cultural sites, but 90 percent of those surveyed showed cultural resources in deficient condition.
• More than 60 percent of the 27,000 historic structures in the park system are neglected.

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