…Throughout the national park system, an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance is eroding the visitor experience and threatening the very resources that the National Park Service was created to protect. Earlier this year, the park service announced that the cost of deferred maintenance had reached $11.5 billion…
Despite this, in December President Obama effectively spread the maintenance budget even thinner by adding seven new parks totaling approximately 120,000 acres to the park system. The administration also supports reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which devotes up to $900 million annually from offshore oil and gas leases to federal land acquisitions and state recreational grants — but nothing explicitly for the maintenance of our federal lands.
Adding more land to the federal estate is irresponsible when the government is failing to maintain the parks, forests and grazing lands it currently owns. Rather than using the conservation fund to acquire more land, Congress should use the money to help address the deferred maintenance backlog.
True conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have, not insatiably acquiring more and hoping it manages itself.
Advocates for reauthorizing the conservation fund, including the Interior Department, point to broad public support for public land acquisition, particularly for private holdings within park boundaries and other ecologically sensitive parcels threatened by development. However, federal land agencies can acquire these priority parcels in a revenue-neutral manner by swapping them with other federal lands, leaving the land and water conservation money for critical maintenance and repairs.
Reed Watson, the executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center blthers on with sophistry for a spell – then, gets to his point:
First, Congress should stop acquiring more land and use the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help pay down the deferred maintenance backlog. Second, Congress should renew and expand the authority of federal land agencies that oversee our parks, forests and rangelands to charge user fees and allow those fees to be used at the locations where they were collected.
No thought given to reordering priorities on how our government spends its whole budget.
The Park Service budget for fiscal year 2015 is $2.6 billion – less than 1/10th of 1% of the federal budget. At the same time all of the regular activities of the Department of Defense are projected to consume 54% of all federal discretionary spending, or $598.5 billion out of a total of $1.1 trillion.
Might we consider withdrawing the taxpayer subsidies in the billion$ we hand over to fossil fuel companies? Nope, flunkies like Watson spend their lobbying time before Congress and the public prating about more efficient use of the pittance set aside for nature’s natural heritage in the United States. In the heart of hearts of creeps like the Koch Bros, there is nothing they’d like better than ignoring real conservation – until after they’ve sucked every bit of carbon from the ground and stuffed it into the air we breathe.