How much funding should America's national parks receive? With ongoing debate over the national deficit and talks for reducing the federal budget, there may several answers to that question. Yet one conservation group firmly believes the answer is "more."
A recent report from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) entitled "Made in America: Investing in National Parks for Our Heritage and Our Economy," highlights the budget cutbacks and future challenges facing America's national park system.
Craig Obey, NPCA's senior vice president for government affairs, said in a press conference that the national parks are "at a tipping point." National park expenditure was reduced by almost $140 million for fiscal year 2011, including an $11.5 million reduction in operations budgets.
NPCA's report also shows that the Budget Control Act of 2011, which created the deficit reduction super committee, further threatens the national parks budget. If the committee fails to reach a budget-reduction agreement, the national parks system may face an automatic nine percent cut.
Obey said these cuts would total around $231 million dollars, with most of it coming from operations budgets. He believes these further budget reductions would be "devastating" for a parks system that has already been forced to cut back.
MSNBC reports that the National Park Service budget was $2.75 billion in 2010, or 1/13 of one percent of the entire federal budget.
Budget cuts for the national parks are not new this year, however. Their budget has already been cut almost $400 million in the past 10 years, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The NPCA stresses that well-funded national parks are not only good for the environment and conservation, but also important for the economy. Their report says that national parks generate 267,000 private-sector jobs each year and directly contribute $13.2 billion annually to the U.S. economy. In fact, the NPCA claims "every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public."
Iliff McMahan, a former mayor of a Tennessee county near the Great Smoky Mountains, said that as an "economic driver," investment in national parks "has to be maintained and improved."
There also seems to be public support for maintaining the National Park Service's budget. The NPCA says that recent polls suggest an overwhelming majority of Americans support the maintenance of the parks budget. Earlier this year, over 100,000 citizens signed an NPCA petition "calling on Congress to protect park budgets."
To Read the National Parks Conservation Association's full report, click here.