Wednesday, May 18, 2011

National Park Budget Cuts And Their Affects On Local Economies

With the need for belt tightening and related rhetoric in Washington to cut the Federal Budget, our National Parks are being identified for funding reductions.  The entire National Park Service budget accounts for only 1/13 of one percent of the Federal Budget, but unfortunately it falls into the category of non-protected programs making this agency easy prey for financial slashers.

The National Park Service not only protects and preserves our natural and cultural resources, it provides unparalleled and irreplaceable recreational and education opportunities.  For many of our citizens parks provide low cost and accessible physical and emotional release during these hard financial times.
Our National Park areas have been working on a shoestring budget for many years resulting in the degradation of nationally significant resources that our citizens and politicians have designated for protection and preservation.  This drop in the bucket of our Federal budget keeps park facilities open, the water supply in parks safe, the trash removed, and provides experiential education that enable our students to make connections between the classroom and the real world.  Many people today remember some of their fondest childhood memories visiting parks with their families. 

The reduction of funding to parks will ultimately result in cutting back of programs, repairs to already crumbling infrastructure, and reductions in the availability of visitor centers, emergency responses, and even bathrooms.  These actions will eventually impact individual wallets during this time of economic slowdown.  Research has shown that for every single dollar spent on our National Parks four dollars is generated in local and regional businesses.  As an example a study was conducted in 2008 proving that $2.3 billion is pumped into local economies from the 16 million annual visitors to The Blue Ridge Parkway.  Consequently, any move that could impact and reduce visitation to an area will result in a down turn in money being pumped directly into what are mostly small businesses. 

Unbeknownst to most citizens, the National Park Service is responsible for managing programs that provide grants and funding to local, state, and tribal governments for projects related to recreation and tourism.  This is one of the budget lines that are identified for deep cuts.  Programs such as these provide local jurisdictions with the ability to support or improve their individual economies and contribute on a regional financial level.

As citizens we have the right and the duty to let our elected officials know about the issues that affect our lives and beliefs.  If you share my trepidation with budget cuts that will have little or no impact on our Nation’s financial mess and could result in false economy that will trickle down to the local level, then contact your representatives in Washington to express your concerns.

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