DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2017 for the National Park Service supports critical conservation, preservation and recreation programs to share the country’s most iconic, natural, cultural and historical landscapes with the next generation of visitors.
The budget requests $3.1 billion to boost the National Park Service’s essential programs and operational needs by $250.2 million above the FY 2016 enacted levels.
“This is a smart, innovative and forward-looking budget that invests in Interior’s key missions – now and in the future – so we can continue to serve the American people,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The President’s budget provides targeted investments to create economic opportunities by growing our domestic energy portfolio, building climate resilient communities, and revitalizing America’s national parks as we mark their 100th anniversary.”
Recently released visitation statistics show that America’s national parks are more popular than ever. More than 305 million people visited the 409 parks in the National Park System in 2015, eclipsing the all-time visitation record the National Park Service saw in the previous year.
“We are actively reaching out to a new generation of visitors and inviting them to explore the depth and breadth of the National Park System,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “The President’s budget will enable the National Park Service to continue to provide these visitors with a fantastic experience, while ensuring that these priceless resources are protected and preserved into the next century.”
Jarvis added that national parks also serve as “economic engines” for surrounding communities.
“Every tax dollar invested in the NPS returns more than $10 to the U.S. economy, thanks to visitor spending in gateway communities.”
The FY 2017 budget builds on FY 2016 Centennial Initiative funding to address deferred maintenance of the National Park Service’s highest priority assets.
Read more: National Park Service maintenance backlog reaches $11.9B, in Utah $292.5M
Additional increases for National Park Service operations would support the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative, a program announced by Obama last year that provides fourth graders and their families free entry to more than 2,000 federally-managed lands and waters nationwide for an entire year. The initiative is part of a broader effort to connect young people to our nation’s unique outdoor spaces.
The proposed budget includes an increase of $20 million for Centennial Challenge projects and partnerships, a matching program that leverages federal funds with partner donations for signature projects and programs at national parks. In FY 2016, the National Park Service leveraged $15 million in federal funding from this program, with nearly $33 million from more than 90 park partners, for a total benefit of almost $48 million.
The budget requests increases of $17 million for competitive historic preservation grants and $3 million for grants-in-aid to historically black colleges and universities to document, interpret, and preserve the stories and sites associated with the progress of civil rights in America. This funding builds on the $8 million provided for these activities in FY 2016.
The budget also includes several new mandatory proposals, including those tied to the National Park Service Centennial Act, introduced last September, as well as the Department of the Interior proposal to permanently authorize annual funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund programs. The budget requests $178.2 million in discretionary funding and $141.2 million in mandatory funding for National Park Service programs within the Fund.
Other increases in the president’s budget for the National Park Service support operations at new park units, as well as investments in critical natural and cultural resource management.