In 2008, President Obama made a campaign promise to restore our national parks: "I am committed to addressing the funding shortfall that the National Park Service has experienced."
He made this statement with good reason -- every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars economic value to the public. With nearly 300 million visitors last year, Americans are finding our national parks fulfill their need for low-cost and affordable recreation. Visitation at our national parks across the country is up 5 percent since the recession hit. In a time of economic hardships, national parks are an investment in local economies and another source of green jobs.
Despite these facts, and despite President Obama's 2008 campaign pledge, this Administration's current budget does not address the funding shortfall national parks are facing. Due to years of inadequate funding, national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone face a $580 million operating shortfall and have accumulated a $9 billion backlog of deferred maintenance work. Over the last three years, the government began to restore the operations budget, recognizing the need for a multi-year commitment to improve the experiences of visitors, to grow local economies across the country, and to protect our national heritage.
We have made important progress toward protecting wildlife in places like Yellowstone and historic treasures in places like Gettysburg. Our national parks have been on track to serve more school groups, rather than turn them away and have hired more park rangers, ensuring that the doors of visitor centers remain open for families. Unfortunately this budget halts that progress -- and additional years of such policies will diminish visitor services and the protection of America's special places.
Throughout history, presidents have invested in national parks during difficult times. Our national parks received more money during the Great Depression than they had in all of the years prior; and Yosemite was set aside as a federal park during the Civil War. Now is not the time to pull back from an investment in our national parks.
Compared with the overall federal budget, the Park Service budget is minute -- just one tenth of 1 percent -- yet national parks support an estimated $13.3 billion of local private-sector economic activity and 267,000 private-sector jobs. The Administration's budget does not recognize the enormous value our national parks provide to American families, nor does it address the critical maintenance and operational needs required to preserve our national heritage. We must invest in our national parks today to meet the challenges they face in their second century of service and beyond.
America's national parks actually create jobs and help invigorate the economy at local levels. Yet the need in our national parks is both extensive and well documented. Our National Park System is part of what makes America great. Congress should invest in our national parks because it makes sense for the parks, for our people, and for our economy. Please join me in emailing Congress, and asking them to fund our national parks here.