Sunday, September 4, 2011

Affects of Further Cuts to National Park Budgets

Check out this article from the Great Falls Tribune on the affects of budget cuts on our National Parks.|topnews|text|Frontpage

This article is of interest since it outlines some of the ideas of how to reduce the number of National Parks in our system including turning some over to states and others to non-profit organizations.  I have quite a few concerns about such proposals.  But here are some of my key ones.

National Park areas are created by Congress and in some cases by the President (National Monuments) because they have been determined to have some cultural or natural significance to our Nation and its people.  So how would it be determined which of these areas now do not have this level of significance.

What states have the funding available to take over a park.  From what I am hearing in the news most states are in dire financial situations unable to fund schools, infrastructure, and public safety.  Most states would most likely apply for Federal funding to care for such an area anyway.  Putting a park under the responsibility of a state government at this time could spell its demise or death.

I have recently entered the world of non-profits.  As managing director of a nature center and arboretum I am attempting to deal with the lack of funding available from grants and donations, the life blood of any non-profit.  Between the down turn in the economy and cuts to Federal programs there is more competition than ever between many worthy causes for limited dollars.  Individual contributors and foundations are cutting back on established grants and not accepting new applications due to losses in the stock market and their donor base.  Federal grant programs are being shut down.  Grants and donations from private industry are being vastly reduced as profits and investments drop.  Families with the increases in gas and grocery prices can ill afford to support local non-profits.

If you were to look back at the history of some historic sites within the National Park System you would find quite a few that were formally state parks or run by non-profits.  These sites were transferred to the National Park Service because they could no longer be financially sustained, were sites of National significance, and could contribute to boosting local economies.

With our current economic conditions I see these quick fix politically motivated solutions contributing to the fall of one of our Country's best ideas and the best park system in the world.

The Great Falls Tribune article quotes Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks and Conservation Association as saying, "Every $1 invested in them (National Parks), ..... generates $4 of economic activity in return."  Yes we all have to tighten out belts, but removing parks from a system that feeds local economies may prove destructive in the end.


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