Guest Post: What You Can Do to Help Our National Parks
|Beautiful Dark Hollow Falls in |
Shenandoah National Park.
Imagine you’re on your dream national park backpacking trip. You’ve been planning for months, but when you arrive, the trails are poorly maintained and it’s difficult to find a ranger to answer your questions. Or maybe you’re planning to explore the history of the Civil War.
You've been looking forward to a Park Service interpretive ranger who can bring that history alive, but haven’t seen a single ranger since the visitor center. Now that you think about it, it was awfully quiet in that visitor center...
These scenarios will not be hard to imagine if Congress fails to find a way to come to agreement on addressing our deficit issues. By Thanksgiving, a congressional “supercommittee” process to address the deficit must make progress, or else it will trigger across-the-board spending cuts to begin next year and scheduled to last a decade. Those cuts would be extraordinarily damaging to national park budgets. Rangers during the busy season? Good luck finding them. Campfire talks for your kids? Think again. Maintaining the bathrooms or even keeping parks open at all will be a challenge if this process—known as “sequestration”—is triggered.
A new report by the National Parks Conservation Association, called Made in America: Investing in National Parks for Our Heritage and Our Economy, details the deeply damaging impacts these cuts would have at parks across the country. But the story doesn’t end there. The deficit debate has been going on for some time, and an agreement Congress reached in August already put spending caps in place that are likely to challenge national parks for the next decade.
Because seasonal rangers—the temporary staff who serve visitors and maintain our parks during peak season—are often the first place that park superintendents can go to make ends meet, next summer may mean that you will see less of them. Finding money for things like educational programs or campfire talks will be challenging. So, national parks are already looking at challenges for the next decade, even without another round of cuts.
Making Do Without EnoughAs the report details, national parks are already making do each year with $500 to $600 million less than they need to adequately protect our national treasures and serve visitors. And maintenance issues continue to fester. The National Park Service (NPS) is tasked with caring for historic treasures like Civil War cannons and presidents’ birthplaces, in addition to historic buildings, roads, interpretive signs, trails, visitor centers, even places like the Statue of Liberty, all of which require maintenance.
Many of these projects are put on hold for lack of funds. This backlog of deferred maintenance projects just keeps growing and is now nearly $11 billion, yet Congress is short $325 million each year to even keep up with it. Despite this challenge, the construction budget for the NPS has been cut by 60% over the last decade. Funding for the NPS to prevent development threats within the borders of our national parks is also threatened.
Economic Benefits of the ParksNational parks are not just places for adventure, to explore our natural wonders and our nation’s history. They are places that contribute to local economies, providing more than $4 in return for every dollar invested. They’re ensuring more than $13 billion in direct private sector-spending each year, creating nearly 270,000 jobs. They’re drawing visitors from around the world to invest in our local economies, and they’re providing affordable vacations for American families struggling to make ends meet. Further cutting national park budgets won’t make a dent in our deficit because the budget for all 397 of our national parks comprises 1/13th of one percent of our federal budget.
What You Can Do to Make a Difference
So, what can you do to help? A great first step is contacting your members of Congress and telling them not to cut funding for national parks. If you haven’t contacted your members before, it’s pretty easy, satisfying and worth a few minutes of your time. Here’s how you do it:
- Find your two senators’ contact information by clicking here and choosing your state.
- Call their offices and – importantly – say that you are a constituent, and that you want to register a concern.
- Tell them that you are concerned about national parks and do not want the budget for the National Park Service to be cut further.
- They will ask for your name and address, and you are done in less than five minutes.
|Post author John |
has great ideas on
how to get involved!
NPCA helps facilitate this process so you can send an email to decision-makers, which is quicker, though it doesn’t have the same impact as a phone call. We have had action alerts on this issue before and will do so again soon. Please sign up to help NPCA educate policymakers on this and other issues at www.npca.org/take_action.