We need to put a floor beneath the National Park Service’s annual, appropriated budget, but we should not stop there. If our national leaders will show a meaningful commitment to our parks, the American people will be with you. A public-private matching partnership has had strong bipartisan support in the past and should be supported going forward.
As Congress begins to debate the next transportation bill — a job producer that accounts for more than half the Park Service backlog — perhaps the debate should also include devoting a “penny for parks” from the gas tax to address the enormous needs of our national parks, refuges and other public lands. We should be seeking a variety of constructive, creative solutions.
As our elected leaders continue discussions to address the deficit, it is time to think about what unites us a nation: America’s 398 national parks, from the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall to Yellowstone’s geysers and Alaska’s icy peaks. If national parks can unite more than 90 percent of Americans, we remain hopeful that the president and congressional Republicans and Democrats will join them. On behalf of our 750,000 members and supporters, and the nearly 300 million people who visit our national parks each year, the National Parks Conservation Association pledges to work with our national leaders to address together a challenge that we can meet. With the 2016 National Park System centennial fast approaching, present and future generations will be proud and thankful, and so will you.
Tom Kiernan is president of the National Parks Conservation Association.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.