Published On: Tue, Mar 4th, 2014

The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2015: $2.6 billion for National Park Service


President Obama’s budget request for 2015 includes $2.6 billion for the critical conservation, preservation, and recreation mission of the National Park Service (NPS) as it approaches its 100th anniversary. The budget boosts the Park Service’s essential programs and operational needs by $38.5 million and adds $16.6 million for fixed cost increases.

President Obama speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast 2014, screenshot from Whitehouse.gov video

President Obama speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast 2014, screenshot from Whitehouse.gov video

“As we prepare for our centennial, the President’s budget request recognizes the importance of investing in an historic effort to attract and host more visitors, leverage additional private philanthropy for the parks, and help build the institutional capacity to maintain the parks for the next 100 years,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The budget supports our core mission and proposes a comprehensive Centennial Initiative to help preserve these treasured lands and icons for this and future generations.”

The budget proposal would provide targeted increases for the National Park Service Centennial Initiative, a multi-year effort to support the preservation of America’s natural, cultural and historic treasures, invest wisely in the National Park System’s most important assets, expand the use of parks for informal learning, engage volunteers, provide training opportunities for youth, and enhance the NPS’ ability to leverage partnerships to accomplish its mission. The budget request also includes a legislative proposal in support of the initiative, providing $400 million in mandatory appropriations annually for three years to fund partnership and deferred maintenance projects.

The proposal comes on the heels of a report released yesterday that showed that national parks across the country are important economic engines, generating $26.75 billion in economic activity and supporting 243,000 jobs in 2012.

The Centennial Initiative includes $640 million through the discretionary budget, a mandatory proposal, and the President’s Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.

The NPS discretionary budget request includes $40 million:

·        $30 million for NPS operations to support youth engagement, to hire youth and veterans at parks, repair facilities, and fully leverage the willingness of private citizens to volunteer on public lands.

·        $10 million to provide the federal match for NPS Centennial Challenge projects and programs at national parks to catalyze creative initiatives to improve visitor services, support outreach to new audiences, and leverage partnerships to reinvigorate the parks while forging connections with communities

The Centennial Initiative includes legislative proposals for new, mandatory funding of $400 million a year for three years to benefit NPS and other land management agencies:

·        $100 million each year for three years in federal matching funds for NPS Centennial Challenge projects and programs.  This proposal will support signature projects at many parks during the centennial year and into the NPS’ second century.

·        $200 million each year for three years for NPS to accomplish high-priority deferred maintenance projects which will make a meaningful and lasting impact on the NPS’ deferred maintenance backlog by restoring priority park assets to good condition.  These funds will ensure that parks can complete their missions and serve visitors safely and effectively.

·        NPS will have the opportunity to compete for $100 million each year for three years in project funding to meet conservation and maintenance needs through a multi-agency Centennial Land Management Investment Fund.  These funds broaden the Centennial Initiative to provide an opportunity for all of Interior’s public lands bureaus and the U.S. Forest Service to address deferred maintenance and land conservation projects.

In addition, the Centennial Initiative benefits from the Administration’s proposal for a government-wide Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative:

·        $100 million is proposed for the competitive, multi-agency Centennial Land Management Investment Fund; combined with the permanent proposal noted above, this totals $200 million available to address deferred maintenance and land conservation needs on public lands.

·        $100 million for NPS to complete high-priority deferred maintenance projects.

Overall, the Centennial Initiative—including mandatory, discretionary, and Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative resources—will allow NPS to ensure that 1,700 or 20 percent of the highest priority park assets are restored to good condition.  The effort creates thousands of jobs over three years, provides over 10,000 work and training opportunities to young people, and engages more than 265,000 volunteers in support of public lands.

Other highlights in the President’s Budget for the National Park Service include:

·        $2.3 billion for national park operations, with a renewed focus on improving the condition of facilities, enhancing the visitor experience, increasing capacity to leverage volunteers, and supporting programs that foster youth engagement in the great outdoors with partners in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

·        $138.3 million for construction, an increase of $878,000, allowing the NPS to address the highest priority projects critical to visitor and employee health and safety and environmental restoration.

·        $10 million for the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program.

·        $56.4 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, including $46.9 million for grants-in-aid to States and Territories, $9 million for grants-in-aid to Tribes, and $500,000 for competitive grants targeted toward communities currently underrepresented in the National Register of Historic Places.

·        Complementing the budget request, the Administration’s proposal for a government-wide Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative identifies an additional $6 million for the Historic Preservation Fund to support development of a nationwide inventory of historic properties to help expedite federal permitting and get infrastructure projects off the ground.

·        $104 million for federal land acquisition programs and the State Conservation grant program, which is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

o   Complimenting this LWCF request is a legislative proposal to provide an additional $192.2 million in mandatory funds for NPS through the LWCF in 2015. This includes $115.2 million for federal land acquisition, with $2.5 million for recreational access projects and $5 million for American Battlefield Protection Program land acquisition grants.  The LWCF legislative proposal also includes $52 million for State Conservation grants and $25 million for Urban Parks and Recreation Fund grants, which provide matching grants and technical assistance to economically distressed urban communities in order to revitalize and improve recreation opportunities.

As the keeper of 401 national parks, 23 national scenic and national historic trails, and 58 wild and scenic rivers, the National Park Service is charged with preserving these lands and historic features for their cultural and historic significance, scenic and environmental worth, and educational and recreational opportunities. Additionally, National Park Service grant and technical assistance programs help revitalize communities and expand local recreation opportunities across the country.

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