STATEMENT OF JONATHAN B. JARVIS, DIRECTOR,
March 30, 2011
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today at this oversight hearing on the President's Fiscal Year 2012 proposed budget for the National Park Service. We appreciate your support for our stewardship of our nation's cherished natural and cultural resources and for the important educational and recreational opportunities we provide for the American people.
National parks are drivers of economic growth, particularly in gateway communities. They stimulate spending and job creation. Taxpayer investments in national parks result in far more than the obvious recreational and educational dividends. In 2009, park visitors spent $11.9 billion and supported 247,000 private-sector jobs. The President's budget will ensure that national parks continue to serve about 280 million visitors who come every year to relax in America's great outdoors and learn about the people and places that make up America's story. The FY 2012 budget request supports continued stewardship of this Nation's most cherished resources through the Administration's America's Great Outdoors initiative – a landmark investment in engaging people, particularly youth, in America's outdoors and conserving our Nation's natural and cultural heritage. It also supports the Secretary's goals of cooperative landscape conservation and engaging America's youth in the great outdoors.
Further supporting the America's Great Outdoors initiative, the NPS budget request plays a key role in the Administration's proposal to fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) programs at $900 million in FY 2012. The NPS request is critical to achieving the goals inherent in the LWCF Act of 1965, which was designed to use revenues generated through the depletion of natural resources for State and Federal land acquisition and the enhancement of lands and waters for recreational and conservation purposes. The request includes $160.0 million for Federal Land Acquisition, an increase of $73.7 million from FY 2010, which would be used to leverage other Federal resources, along with those of non-Federal partners, to achieve shared conservation outcome goals in high-priority landscapes. The request also includes $200.0 million for the State Conservation Grants program, of which $117.0 million would be targeted to a new competitive matching grants program for States to create and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities.
The FY 2012 request maintains NPS funding of $9.9 million for the Secretary's Cooperative Landscape Conservation initiative. This initiative will bring together natural resource professionals at the Federal, State, and local level through real and virtual connections to facilitate the wider sharing of information. These networks of resource professionals will be supported by science centers that translate global scientific understanding of environmental change into solutions at the landscape level. A science-based understanding of these issues and their practical applications will have broad benefits for resource managers that are wrestling with the need to find practical and cost-effective approaches to conservation in the face of economic challenges. With this funding, resource monitoring will increase at more than 150 of the most vulnerable parks in high elevation, high latitude, arid, and coastal areas, such as monitoring for melting permafrost in Alaska and changes in salt marsh salinity along the South Atlantic coast. Additionally, over 500 employees will be trained to incorporate adaptation approaches into resource management.
In order to uphold our stewardship responsibilities and sustain key initiatives, the National Park Service undertook a rigorous review of our ongoing activities and made difficult choices. The proposed budget eliminates funding for Save America's Treasures grants, Preserve America grants, and the Park Partnership Projects program. Further, the request eliminates funding for Statutory Assistance and proposes significant reductions in the NPS Construction and National Heritage Areas programs.
In addition to the program reductions the budget includes management savings and efficiencies totaling $46.2 million, including $18.4 million that will be realized in 2011. The NPS will realize the remaining savings in 2012 by reducing $24.8 million in supplies and material, and $3.0 million in savings for travel and transportation of persons. In proposing the reductions and absorptions requested in the FY 2012 request, we have been careful to protect park operations as much as possible, and we continue to advance innovative approaches to collaboration and cost savings. The consolidation of our workforce management, acquisition, and contracting offices are prime examples of strategies that will, in future years, deliver greater services at less cost. I would also like to mention the significant progress we have made in responsibly reducing our unobligated balances. Over the past two years, we implemented a number of policy and program changes, including reducing retention percentages at larger fee-collecting parks if their unobligated balances exceeded 35 percent of gross revenue. The result has been a more efficient targeting of funds to where it's needed most for the benefit of park visitors and protecting resources. It has also allowed individual parks more independence in project selection and expedited the approval of small fee projects. The unobligated balance for this program was reduced from $218 million at the end of FY 2009 to $86 million on January 1, 2011.
Operation of the National Park System
Land Acquisition and State Assistance
Beginning in FY 2011, the Department instituted a coordinated process for prioritizing Federal land acquisition projects among the three Departmental land management bureaus and the U.S. Forest Service. The cross-bureau criteria emphasize opportunities to jointly conserve important landscapes, especially river and riparian areas, wildlife habitat, urban areas that provide needed recreational opportunities, and those containing important cultural and historical assets. Additional criteria for these projects include the ability to leverage partner funds, the degree of involvement with other Interior bureaus for the project, and the urgency for project completion. The FY 2012 land acquisition request totals over 98,800 acres of the highest priority landscapes, spanning the country from Alaska and Hawaii to Maine and Florida and the Virgin Islands. As required by law, the proposed tracts are located within authorized park boundaries. The request also provides $200.0 million, including administrative costs, for State Conservation Grants funded by the LWCF, a net increase of $160.0 million from the FY 2010 enacted level. Of this total, at least $78.0 million would be distributed equally to States as required by law, an increase of $40.8 million over the FY 2010 enacted level. With the remaining funds, the 2012 budget proposes developing a competitive component targeted at community parks and green spaces, landscape-scale conservation, and recreational waterways. These grants would address the public's concern about the lack of open space and outdoor recreational areas in certain urban and other areas that was frequently conveyed during listening sessions for the America's Great Outdoors initiative.
The competitive component would fund “signature projects” that create more outdoor recreational opportunities and conserve open space where access to natural areas has been inhibited or is unavailable; protect, restore, and connect open space and natural landscapes; and provide access to waterways. The projects would be expected to be larger in scale and would likely require and receive greater amounts of funding than has typically been awarded. NPS estimates that 10 to 50 grants could be funded to support acquisition of open spaces and natural areas and development of facilities for outdoor recreation across the Nation. Under the LWCF Act, a single State cannot receive more than 10 percent of total grant funds, so no State would receive more than $17.9 million under this proposal. Each State would continue to automatically receive an apportionment that would total approximately $1.5 million. Applications would be evaluated using standard LWCF State grant criteria, as well as new criteria, such as the project's ability to increase and improve recreational access or the use of science and mapping to identify valuable lands for wildlife conservation.
National Recreation and Preservation
The budget also includes a request of $2.0 million for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails grants program. This proposal reflects the Administration's continuing commitment to ecosystem restoration, including stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay, pursuant to Executive Order 13508. The funds would provide technical and financial assistance for conserving, restoring and interpreting natural, cultural and recreational resources within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
As noted above, the budget proposal provides $19 million in savings by not funding Statutory Assistance earmarks or Preserve America Grants and cutting in half Heritage Partnership Program grants to encourage self-sufficiency among well-established National Heritage Areas while continuing support for newer areas. These reductions are proposed to focus NPS resources on the highest priority needs within parks.
Historic Preservation Fund
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my summary of the FY 2012 budget request for the National Park Service. We would be pleased to answer any questions you or the other members of the subcommittee may have.
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