Friday, August 26, 2016

National Park Service Turns 100, With Billions Needed for Repair Backlog

The National Park Service turned 100 on Thursday, but ongoing funding challenges have created a maintenance backlog that threatens to tarnish what famed documentarian Ken Burns calls "America's best idea." The National Park Service currently oversees 409 sites, 60 "wild and scenic" rivers and 23 national trails — all of which combined to establish a record attendance last year with about 307 million total visitors. Unlike other government agencies, the National Park Service also enjoys general public support. But despite the seeming bipartisan support, funding for the National Park Service has fluctuated in recent years: the Obama administration's request for $860 million in funding for 2017 — the service's centennial year — has yet to be approved by Congress. The maintenance backlog is also piling up, with the total cost of necessary repairs and improvements a hair beneath $12 billion. Many of the roads in Yellowstone National Park have not been upgraded since the 1930s and 1940s. It would cost between $800 million and $1.2 billion to make the necessary repairs. The pipeline that brings water into Grand Canyon National Park needs replacing — it's 20 years past its prime. The cost to replace it: $150 million. The park's annual budget is $20 million. In addition to infrastructure costs, day-to-day operations also require increased funding. NPR produced a segment earlier this year about how staff cuts at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have led to sanitation issues, as workers struggle to empty trashcans and keep toilets clean. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who oversees the park service, addressed the backlog in a speech earlier this year. She warned that budget crunches "have left our national parks and public lands understaffed and struggling to keep up with day-to-day operations."...more

1 comment:

Dave Pickel said...

It's too bad Congress hasn't funded the Park Service to the degree needed over the years. The lack of funding is much like the Forest Service has had to endure - critical forest management activities are foregone in order to fund fire fighting activities. A vicious circle.