Good to know that a number of congressmen are sending a bill for more funding to Congress shortly, to counteract the cuts Bush has made, despite saying he would not.
The nation's leading park advocacy group, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), today announced that America's national parks are under assault from poachers, and called on Congress to provide adequate funding and staffing to enable the National Park Service to combat this growing threat to parks.
"Diminished ranger patrols...allow crime to proliferate, resulting in the destruction and theft of park resources," Gretchen Long, NPCA's past chair of the Board of Trustees, testified before the House Government Reform subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources in April. "Just having rangers visible in park front and backcountry areas can discourage crime."
In its fiscal year 2006 budget request the administration said, "The poaching of wildlife from national parks has been steadily increasing each year for the past several years." More than 100 wildlife species, including threatened and endangered sea turtles, grizzly bears, bald eagles, and desert tortoise, have been poached from 153 national parks across the country.
Poachers also steal moss from Olympic, ginseng from Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway (when harvested legally, these roots sell for $350 to $400 per pound), black bears from Shenandoah (gall bladders are resold on the international black market for up to $3,000), fossils from Badlands National Park, endangered cacti from Utah's Capitol Reef National Park, and rare archaeological artifacts from national parks in the Southwest.
NPCA's new report, Faded Glory: Top 10 Reasons to Reinvest in America's National Park Heritage, points out that the annual operating budget of the national parks is short more than $600 million annually, limiting the ability of the Park Service to address poaching, repair unsafe roads and trails, conduct wildlife research and monitoring, restore crumbling historic buildings, and provide sufficient educational programs for school groups and park visitors.
This week, 78 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and approximately two-dozen members of the U.S. Senate are sending letters to the House and Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittees, seeking an additional $150 million for the fiscal year 2006 operations of the national parks to address critical needs.