WASHINGTON -- President Bush is proposing up to $3 billion of new public and private investment over 10 years to improve and expand national park conservation, preservation and visitor service programs in preparation for the parks’ 100th anniversary in 2016, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said today.
Under the President’s National Park Centennial Initiative, this historic multi-year investment begins with the $2.4 billion national parks budget for FY2008 – including the largest budget ever proposed for park operations and programs benefiting parks.
Secretary Kempthorne said he recommended increases in park operations and investments to the President after consulting extensively with national park officials and supporters. “Park superintendents and advocates repeatedly tell me their greatest need and highest priority is to increase funding for daily park operations,” Kempthorne said. “I am delighted the President responded with this bold, decisive and visionary budget. It is exactly what the parks need to inspire another generation of visitors.”
For the first time ever, the national parks’ operating budget will exceed $2 billion in FY2008, an increase of $258 million over FY2006. All 390 national parks will benefit from the increased funding. The FY2008 budget includes three new $100 million components that could provide up to $3 billion in increased philanthropic, partnership and government resources over 10 years for park programs and projects.
The first component -- the President’s Centennial Commitment of $100 million in annual federal spending over a decade -- would be used to hire 3,000 more seasonal national park rangers, guides and maintenance workers; enroll more than a million children in Junior/Web Ranger programs; improve landscapes; attract more volunteers; preserve historic structures; and repair buildings.
In addition, the President’s Centennial Challenge would make available up to $100 million annually in mandatory funds over 10 years to match at least $100 million in private contributions for signature projects and programs in national parks. This Challenge will leverage significant increases in the level of private donations to parks.
“Philanthropic giving is part of the tradition and history of the national parks,” Kempthorne said, noting that about 30 national parks were created through private gifts and that the earliest museum collections and visitor guides were provided by donors. “More than 160 national and local friends groups are contributing about $20 million each year to national parks,” the Secretary noted. “The President has set a goal of increasing that at least five-fold to generate an additional $100 million. I am confident that we will meet this goal.”
Secretary Kempthorne and NPS Director Mary Bomar will seek comments from Americans during Centennial Challenge listening sessions in every region of the country. The dates and venues will be announced soon. Based on those discussions, they will identify signature projects and set goals to be achieved by the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016. Secretary Kempthorne and Director Bomar will present their recommendations to the President by May 31, 2007.
“By the Park Service’s 100th birthday, the President’s Centennial Initiative will have provided significant resources to restore and better protect the parks’ natural, cultural and historic resources,” Kempthorne said. “There will be new and improved visitor centers, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities; more ranger-led programs; greater volunteerism and philanthropy. Visitors’ park experiences will be significantly enhanced. In short, our national park system will be prepared for its next century of excellence in conservation, preservation and enjoyment.”
The Centennial Initiative, announced in Yellowstone on August 25, 2006 -- the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service-- continues President Bush’s commitment to national parks:
- The FY2008 operating budget is $258 million above FY2006 operating levels and $584 million (40 percent) more than when President Bush took office.
- Since President Bush took office, more than 6,600 national park improvement projects have been completed or are underway.
- Through 2007, more than $450 million has been committed to restore and enhance natural resources within national parks. President Bush boosted annual funding for this program from $29 million to $78 million, more than a two-fold increase.
- Preventive maintenance funds have tripled.