December 16, 2014

When more national parks isn't necessarily good

I'm all in favor of new units of the National Park Service being created, with two caveats:
1. They're deserving;
2. They're adequately funded.

But new legislation, detailed here, fails the second test.

With a Congress that's unlikely to up the budget for the current NPS, expecting new units to be maintained, along with existing ones and their decade-plus backlog of maintenance, shortages of staff, and morale problems, this is ridiculous.

Sorry, but I'd rather have no more NPS units at all than an increased NPS fighting over the same budget pie.

Wilderness areas? That generally requires little extra money, whether they're within the NPS, or the Forest Service, or BLM, so that's different.

Tule Spring Fossil Bed, a proposed new national monument.
But, no, this is why I disagree with environmental organizations, especially Gang Green ones, touting and trumpeting this news.

In the new Congress, you will not get significant additional funding. You may get cuts, as far as I know.

I've even exchanges emails with a couple of the Gang Green groups, when they were first touting this. On the one group that responded, the answer was, "We'll worry about the money later."

Well, even when Dems held both houses of Congress the past six years, along with the presidency, the NPS hasn't gotten money to fully clean up its backlog, let alone enough to improve current operating needs. Why would you think this will change in the next two years, or maybe even beyond?

Per the National Parks Conservation Association, here's the skinny on the skinniness:
The budget to operate national parks has been cut nearly eight percent, or nearly $190 million in today’s dollars, compared to just four years ago; national parks also suffer from an annual operations shortfall of more than a half-billion dollars. Recent cuts have forced national park superintendents to delay the opening of parks or park roads; close visitor centers, picnic areas, and campgrounds; decrease the number of rangers to protect and maintain parks; and limit the number of educational programs. 

I agree that "no new parks" is a conservative talking point; nonetheless, if you asked me to choose one of two on "new parks" or "more money," I know which I'd want. 

Heck, as this story about Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area illustrates, we'd be better off cutting some Park Service sites. Give the NRAs to the BLM, as a starter, at least if the Park Service is treating them like weak sisters. (That said, ones that don't have non-recreational value, unlike Glen Canyon, should unilaterally be moved to BLM.)

Beyond that, many non-Gang Green groups, like Center for Biological Diversity, don't like the current bill. Too many giveaways, they say, as High Country News notes.

And, they're right. A permanent speed-up in BLM oil and gas permitting, and an extension from 10 to 20 years on grazing leases? Ugh.

Anyway, whether more good than bad, or more bad than good on the bill, what good is a post like this without a graphic? Especially if it's a big one?

Open and Shut? - NPCA Infographic

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