The Best of America Under Threat from Underfunding

National Parks Receiving more visitors and less money
Released by: Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center

America's National Parks:

America’s national parks are the nation’s most treasured places where visitors can experience the best of America’s great outdoors, wildlife, history and culture.

National parks are becoming increasingly popular. In 2009, overall visitorship was up by 4%, the highest level in nearly a decade. Two-thirds of national parks, including parks in nearly every state, saw an increase in visitors in 2009.

However, even as more people are visiting parks, operating budgets for the majority of national parks are at risk of being cut. Nearly three-quarters of parks that saw an increase in visitorship last year face a budget cut in the next fiscal year.

As America’s greatest places are becoming more popular destinations, now is the time to ensure that national parks have the resources they need to sustain valuable visitor programs and services, maintain the quality of park facilities, ensure safety and promote park stewardship. Proposed budget cuts for the coming year will only add to the National Parks Service budget shortfalls, created by years of underfunding.

Many national parks are also threatened by overdevelopment, pollution and other threats on lands adjacent to or within their boundaries. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established to ensure funding for public lands agencies, like the National Park Service, to acquire private lands and other strategic parcels from willing landowners. Due to inconsistent funding, many of these critical purchases remain under funded, leaving these lands vulnerable to inappropriate development.

The administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative should emphasize the need to provide necessary funding for the National Park Service. Elected officials should follow suit by fully funding the Park Service so that visitors can enjoy the best of America, both now and for generations to come. Our leaders in Washington should also act to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is Oregon’s crown jewel with its magnificent deep blue waters surrounded by 2,000-foot sheer cliffs. During the summer, the park draws hikers and campers looking to explore the rim of the ancient extinct volcano and its surrounding mountains, old growth forests and wildflower meadows. Scenic routes through the park give all visitors great opportunities to gaze down at America’s deepest lake, and park rangers lead hikes and snowshoe walks year-round. The rest of the year snow blankets the park as it receives an average of 44 feet of snowfall. Like many of Oregon’s national lands, the park is under-protected and underfunded. Two proposed clearcuts in the surrounding national forest land threaten the park’s ecosystem for Roosevelt elk, black bear, and bald eagles. Crater Lake drew over 7% more visitors in 2009, but faces a budget cut of 1% in FY2011. In the past, underfunding has forced the park to cut both full-time and seasonal ranger positions in order to fund fixed costs.