NPCA Urges Congress to Avoid Across-the-Board Budget Cuts to National Parks

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

NPCA and other public interest groups concerned about the impact of looming budget cuts to federal programs delivered a letter to Congress and the Obama administration last week urging decision-makers to avert sequestration—the steep mandatory budget cuts that will go into effect this January if lawmakers do not act to prevent them. The sequester would mandate damaging cuts of as much as 10 percent across Park Service accounts, which would virtually eliminate rangers hired during the busy season, reduce hours at visitor centers, and even lead to closed parks.

This broad cut was designed as a self-imposed threat to be avoided, so that Congress would instead find a way to more strategically address the budget deficit. However, congressional disagreement and inaction have led to the cut being scheduled for this January if Congress does not find a more strategic approach. The impact on national parks would be profound.

The coalition that drafted the letter opposes these cuts and advocates for a “balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to nondefense discretionary programs.” Joining NPCA in this effort are nearly 3,000 national, state, and local organizations from all 50 states representing the national parks, health, education, and public safety communities, among others. Despite our diverse interests, we share a common interest in protecting core government functions from further cuts.

These diverse programs are provided by the government for the benefit of all Americans. National parks support economic growth, strengthen public health, and enrich the lives of people around the country. In 2011, overall nondefense discretionary spending represented less than one-fifth of the federal budget. National Park Service funding in particular represents less than one-thirteenth of 1 percent of federal spending—and every dollar invested in park operations generates approximately $10 in gross sales revenues to nearby communities. National parks also support more than $30 billion in spending and more than a quarter million jobs each year.

One third of America’s top 25 tourism destinations are national park sites; they are deeply loved by visitors and serve as economic engines around the country. Yet the budget for the National Park Service has been cut by 6 percent the last two years–even more if you factor in inflation. It’s shortsighted to cut resources year after year for one of our greatest tourism assets with tremendous economic importance and potential. As budgets continue to erode, the parks will lose rangers and increasingly crumble into disrepair, and we could begin to see the closure of campgrounds, visitor facilities, and even entire parks.

To learn more about the importance of funding national parks, read NPCA’s Made in America report. Read the coalition letter opposing the sequestration here (PDF). Read NPCA’s press release about the recent proposed funding cut in the House here.

About the Author

Director of Budget and Appropriations John Garder

John Garder is director of budget and appropriations at NPCA. He is a budget analyst and researcher who advocates for more adequate funding for national parks to diverse audiences, including Congress, the White House, and the Department of the Interior. He came to NPCA after eight years of DC-based conservation advocacy for public interest groups. He has an M.S. in Resource, Policy, and Behavior from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and a B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In his free time, he is an avid outdoor recreationist on America’s public lands.