|The White House
President George W. Bush
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National Park Service
For Immediate Release
February 26, 2004
National Park Service Director Touts Administrations Strong Commitment to Sustaining National Parks, Conservation Programs
National Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella told Congress last Thursday the FY 2005 budget request of about $2.4 billion would increase appropriated funding for the NPS by over $100 million above the FY 2004 level, or over four percent.
"This budget proposal demonstrates a strong commitment to sustaining the National Park System," Mainella said, "with emphasis on reducing the maintenance backlog, strengthening law enforcement and improving visitor safety programs, enhancing resource management, and expanding partnership and volunteer activities."
Mainella testified before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands of the House Committee on Resources to discuss key provisions of the proposed budget needed to assure that significant progress continues toward fulfilling President Bush's commitment to sustaining national parks and conservation programs managed by the Service.
She spent most of her time discussing the Administration's continuing commitment to addressing the deferred maintenance backlog program and measures being taken to reverse the trend.
Mainella said the NPS now has-for the first time ever-a system to grade the condition of facilities. "Over the last three years, the National Park Service has undertaken a full inventory of its assets, determined what their condition is, and identified what repairs or changes in facility management are needed," she said. "With this system, the National Park Service can set targets each year to improve facility grades and achieve an overall acceptable condition for facilities. Our management changes will enable the agency to take care of park assets far more effectively and efficiently than in the past."
She said the FY 2005 budget proposal reflects this priority with a request of $1.112 billion to address deferred maintenance of park facilities and roads. "This is nearly double the amount for the same categories just seven years ago," Mainella said. "With this request, we are on track to exceed the President's goal of investing $4.9 billion over five years to address the backlog by improving facilities and roads in our parks. In the four budgets of this Administration, nearly $3.9 billion to date has been proposed to address deferred maintenance in parks.
The funds provided are achieving tangible results. The National Park Service has undertaken over 1,300 projects using repair and rehabilitation funding in FY 2001-2003 with another 400 more anticipated to be done in FY 2004."
Examples of major construction and rehabilitation projects include: $4.1 million for Lava Beds National Monument to relocate the visitor center away from fragile underground resources; $2.1 million for Yellowstone National Park to replace a wastewater treatment plant and relocate sewer lines, and $3.3 million for Acadia National Park to rehabilitate historic carriage road bridges to correct drainage and waterproofing problems.
She said that the NPS also is slated to receive $310 million for park roads under the President's proposed highway authorization bill through the Federal Lands Highway Program.
She used the analogy of how we manage our homes to illustrate the importance of managing the deferred maintenance backlog. "Our houses inevitably experience deterioration over time even if we provide the rights levels of maintenance," Mainella said. "Planning for needs can minimize emergencies, and limit the scope and the cost of maintenance over time."
Other budget highlights addressed by Mainella included a proposed $4.6 million increase for the Natural Resource Challenge, the agency's multi-year effort to increase knowledge about and protection of the natural resources under the agency's stewardship, a proposed $4.7 million increase for law enforcement at specific parks, and a proposed overall park operations and maintenance funding increase of about $77 million which equates to nearly five percent over FY 2004.
The proposed budget also would fund partnership initiatives, which supplement and maximize appropriations. An increase of $850,000 is proposed for the Volunteers in Parks Program. The request includes $21 million for the Cooperative Conservation Initiative, most of which will provide new and expanded opportunities for partner participation through the NPS Challenge Cost Program.
"Grants issued through the Cooperative Conservation Initiative enable the National Park Service to work cooperatively with gateway communities and other partners to advance Secretary Norton's vision of cooperative conservation and the President's vision of a new environmentalism," Mainella said. "In FY 2003, the National Park Service issued 72 CCI challenges cost-share grants to over 200 partners who more than matched $5 million of Federal funds."
Mainella said the budget proposal's federal land acquisition request is $84 million, with nearly half of that amount--$40 million-slated for potential acquisition of a portion of the oil and gas holdings underlying Big Cypress National Preserve. Funding also would support acquiring the site for the Flight 93 National Memorial and Civil War battlefield grants.