February 11, 2019 – Shortly after a congressional hearing to conduct oversight of the administration’s use of national park fee revenue to keep some national park open during the shutdown, National Park Service (NPS) Deputy Director Dan Smith announced that the agency will retroactively pull from appropriated funds approved by Congress to end the shutdown to repay parks’ fee accounts that were used to keep parks open.
During the partial government shutdown, Department of the Interior (DOI) Acting Secretary David Bernhardt abandoned his obligation to protect our nation’s most precious natural and historic resources. First, DOI mandated that staff keep national parks open with only skeleton crews, leaving our most treasured places unprotected and vulnerable to damage. Then, as the shutdown dragged on and the parks began to suffer from overflowing trash and human waste, vandalism and looting, park staff were instructed to drain their fee money accounts dry to keep their gates open. Now, DOI is planning to replenish the parks’ fee money spent during the shutdown – but at the expense of parks’ already underfunded operating budgets and in opposition of standard budgeting practice.
Statement by John Garder, Senior Director of Budget and Appropriations for National Parks Conservation Association:
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“The administration is playing a shell game, moving money around to hide the fact that parks still aren’t being made whole for the damage and costs they incurred from its short-sighted, irresponsible decision to leave parks open during the shutdown. This move further highlights the lack of a strategic, long-term plan to account for the avoidable damage our parks are now dealing with.
“Either way you look at this scenario, parks lose. This isn’t the good news for parks that the Department of the Interior would have you believe. The Interior’s decision to keep parks partially open during the shutdown was a tragic mistake. And now parks are the ones paying the price – for years to come. This plan will only add to the financial pressures our national parks and their staff face as they prepare for the busiest season of the year.”
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.