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HOME arrow - Land management arrow Park Funding Don't be Fooled
Park Funding Don't be Fooled
Written by Scott Silver   
Monday, 05 February 2007

In tomorrow's news and in news to follow, you will be reading many articles that speak of the President Bush's efforts to revitalize National Park Funding and to move the National Park System toward a glorious 2016 Centennial. You will read about additional park funding being requested in the President's budget, about efforts to promote additional public private partnerships, about efforts to boost volunteerism, about efforts to stem the decline in park visitation and attract more visitors to the parks---  and much more.

Some of what you'll be reading will be smoke and mirrors.  Much of what you'll be reading will be further confirmation of the ongoing efforts of this administration to radically transform the National Park System in ways that make it less public, more commercial and increasingly tolerant of motorized, industrialized, tourism and wreckreation.

Unfortunately, many will be fooled by the President's rhetoric --- including some within the conservation community.

Fortunately, many will not be fooled --- including Congressman Nick Rahall, Chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources.

Pasted below is a news release issued today by Rahall's office. I'll have more to say on this topic in response to the expected flood of articles.


--- begin quoted ---

Press Release
February 5, 2007

Committee on Natural Resources
Chairman Nick J. Rahall II

President's Budget Glosses Over Interior's Core Mission

Contact: Allyson Ivins Groff, 202-226-9019

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Bush Administration's proposed Fiscal Year 2008 budget for natural resources management, while generally responsible, should be stripped of gimmicks and instead focus on reinvigorating the core mission of the Department of Interior, said U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

"We do not need any more fancy labels or bumper sticker slogans on new initiatives to responsibly manage our nation's precious resources. Instead, we need to get back to the basics of good stewardship through the core programs of the Interior Department," Rahall said.

As the National Park Service's 100th anniversary approaches, the Interior Department has proposed the creation of three new $100 million components of a National Park's Centennial Initiative ".to prepare parks for another century of conservation, preservation, and enjoyment."  However, only $100 million has been committed by the President's budget.

"The rest of the funding is just an illusion conjured by this Administration," Rahall said.

The budget assumes passage of legislation to create a new mandatory spending program that would make up to $100 million available, but only if matched dollar-for-dollar by donations from the public.  Additionally, the "new" funding is largely the result of shifting funds from existing important park programs, such as construction, into a new budget column with a new label.

"While many Americans value the role of private philanthropy in supporting our National Park System, the Administration's increasing reliance on the private sector in this capacity is troubling.  Our National Parks are national treasures - and their funding is a national responsibility," said Rahall.

The FY 2008 budget also envisions a Healthy Lands Initiative under the Bureau of Land Management to address the growing conflict between oil and gas development on public lands with other uses, such as grazing, hunting and fishing.  Responsible management of these land resources, wildlife and recreational opportunities have either been flat-funded or cut, while the President has proposed promoting oil and gas development activities by 30 percent over the last two years.

"It is heartening to see that the Bush Administration recognizes it has a problem in these areas," Rahall said.  "It's like the 'Five Stages of Grief.'  Our parks are crumbling and our public lands are under assault, so at least the establishment of these initiatives tells us the Administration is now beyond the stage of denial."

"But funds for these initiatives would be much wiser spent if reflected in the accounts for the operation and maintenance of our National Parks and to more aggressively enforce oil and gas lease stipulations," Rahall said.

Rahall did applaud the Administration for including in its budget proposals the repeal of certain provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which have already passed the House of Representatives as part of its first 100 hours agenda.

The provisions, contained in H.R. 6, the Clean Energy Act of 2007 and sponsored by Chairman Rahall, would strike the expansion of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas royalty relief in the Gulf of Mexico and prohibit the federal government from charging companies fees when they apply for drilling permits on federal lands.  According to the FY 2008 budget, "Additional royalty relief for oil and gas exploration is unwarranted in today's price environment."

"Amen to that," Rahall said.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 05 February 2007 )

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