22 April 2005 at 3:14:41 PM
One of my concerns back when I first started running for President was to make sure that our national park system worked well for all our citizens. The parks belong to the people. And the parks should be accessible to the people. A lot of good folks use our parks, but as a result of not paying close attention to the maintenance backlogs in our parks, some of the parks weren't meeting the standards that we should expect. And so I laid out a five-year initiative to spend $4.9 billion to end the maintenance backlog of our parks. We'll meet that initiative when Congress meets my budget request this year. I want to thank Senator Frist, Senator Alexander and the members of the Congress for supporting this important park initiative.
We spent $20 million last year in the Smokies on maintenance backlog. In other words, we have an obligation to maintain these valuable assets on behalf of the people, and we're meeting that obligation. Secretary Gale Norton and Fran Mainella, who runs our park system, are doing a fine job of setting clear
priorities and explaining to Congress the nature of those priorities, and then restoring these parks back to where they need to be so people can use them.
NPS to Congress:
WASHINGTON, April 22 /U.S. Newswire/ -- At a congressional hearing today about the funding needs of the national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) provided testimony on the shortage of interpretive rangers in the parks, the affects of funding on visitor safety, and the conditions of park roadways. The hearing, held in DC and hosted by Government Reform, Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Mark Souder (R-Ind.), was the second in a series of congressional hearings to be held over the next two years to examine the funding needs of America's national parks.
"Over our 86-year history, NPCA has found that the most pervasive challenge facing America's parks is the failure of successive congresses and presidential administrations to fund them adequately," said Gretchen Long, current member and former chair of the NPCA board of trustees. "If recent funding trends continue, the picture will only worsen. The current proposed increase for fiscal year 2006 will likely lead to more service cutbacks in parks, unless Congress substantially increases funding above the president's request."
Specifically, NPCA called on Congress to increase the parks' base operations budget by $100 million over the president's request for fiscal year 2006; pass the National Park Centennial Act; provide $320 million per year for the Park Roads and Parkways Program in the transportation reauthorization bill; continue to encourage the philanthropic support of private citizens and organizations; and support and encourage the Park Service to expand business planning and implementation.
Update:National Parks Conservation Association on Bush's Visit to the Smoky Mountains.
We are pleased that President Bush is visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park today and celebrating the important and growing role of volunteers in protecting our national parks. The administration has appropriately and effectively encouraged volunteerism in the parks, and we applaud those efforts.
Unfortunately, this park is afflicted with two serious problems that go beyond what volunteers can do-insufficient funding and polluted air. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a $182-million backlog of maintenance needs. This and other parks across the country don't have the funding necessary to fix crumbling roads and bridges, restore historic buildings, combat invasive species, and other resource protection and backlog needs. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. John Duncan, the president's hosts today, are sponsoring important legislation in Congress that can make an appreciable difference in our parks. If passed, the bipartisan National Park Centennial Act would provide funding from the general treasury and from a voluntary check-off on federal income tax returns to enable individual Americans to contribute directly to the preservation of the nation's heritage. We urge the president to join Senators Alexander, McCain, Lieberman, Salazar, and Feinstein, Congressman Duncan, and other park champions in Congress in supporting the bipartisan Centennial Act, which builds on his successful efforts to empower Americans to care for our national parks.
We applaud the president for requesting $1.8 billion over six years to enable parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains to implement road and bridge repairs and alternative transportation projects. Unfortunately, this request has been tied up in the stalled reauthorization of the transportation bill. Our parks can't afford to wait. We encourage Congress to embrace the president's request and approve the transportation bill-the best opportunity to reduce the parks' burgeoning backlog this year.
Great Smoky Mountains is also the most polluted national park in the nation. Emissions from power plants and other factories that have avoided installing modern pollution controls drastically reduce its scenic vistas, damage its plants, and are unhealthy for park visitors. This same pollution makes the Smokies a less-attractive tourist destination, potentially reducing tourism dollars spent in the region. We urge the administration to enforce the Clean Air Act to clean up this harmful pollution by requiring each and every major, outdated park polluter to install the "best available retrofit technology" to reduce their emissions for the health of our parks, our families, and our communities.
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