Re: “2014 look ahead” (TNT, 1-5).
With hopes for a better 2014, the National Parks Conservation Association appreciates the rear-view look at the particularly trying year for our national parks.
In addition to the noted closure of Mount Rainier National Park’s Ohanapecosh visitor center due to across-the-board cuts from the government sequester, the park had to implement earlier closures of its Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh campgrounds, on top of indefinitely delaying needed road repairs and campgrounds maintenance.
Collectively, these closures impacted tens of thousands of park visitors. Across the country, national park operations budgets have faced a 13 percent reduction, in today’s dollars, over the last three years.
The most extreme impact in 2013 was October’s 16-day government shutdown, with more than $9 million estimated losses to Washington communities near national parks. All of these cuts for our National Park System, which provides a $10 return for every $1 invested and enjoys incredible support for funding by voters across the board, do not make a lot of sense.
The National Parks Conservation Association thanks Sen. Patty Murray for helping shape and pass the bipartisan budget deal, which stands to help reduce damage inflicted on our parks this year and next – though the struggle continues.
As the National Park Service approaches its 100th anniversary in 2016, we ask that Congress resolve to create a robust initiative to help our national treasures flourish into the next century. Surely our national parks, “America’s best idea,” deserve such a resolution to be kept.
(Smith is Northwest regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association.)