WASHINGTON - December 15 - The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today delivered a Christmas list for America's national parks to Congress and the administration.
"This week, Congress kicked off the holiday gift-giving season by agreeing to strike the damaging provision from the House reconciliation bill that would have opened Death Valley National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and other parks to mining operations and developers. NPCA has a few other gift suggestions for America's beloved-and threatened-national parks, " said NPCA's Senior Vice President Ron Tipton.
-- Don't Shoot Santa's Reindeer. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill would close part of Channel Islands National Park to the public in order to benefit a private elk hunting operation that is, by court-ordered settlement, supposed to end by 2011. The amendment was introduced under the guise of providing recreational opportunities for the military-which did not even ask for this opportunity.
-- Let Sleigh Bells Ring -- Not Engines. You won't be able to hear sleigh bells ring amongst the whine of motors roaring through the parks if the Department of the Interior's proposed rewrite of the national park management policies is not abandoned. The rewrite potentially weakens protections against air, water, and noise pollution, and could significantly increase opportunities for off-road vehicles and other damaging uses in the parks.
-- Keep the Grinch Out of the Parks' Piggy Bank. Congress is considering cutting the budget of the parks and other federal programs next year. Already short more than $600 million annually, the National Park Service needs at least an additional $150 million in fiscal year 2007 to enable the parks to recover from recent hurricanes; address homeland security requirements such as protecting U.S. borders and icon parks; provide adequate visitor services, and protect historic sites, artifacts, and wildlife.
-- Smog-Free Skies for Rudolph. Thirty years after Congress promised to restore clean air to America's national parks, unsightly haze, caused mainly by pollution from outdated coal- fired power plants, continues to shroud parks nationwide. The problem will worsen if the administration rolls back the laws aimed at cleaning up these old power plants. This holiday season- instead of burning even more lumps of dirty coal-the administration must fully enforce the laws that protect air quality for the health of our parks and our families.
-- Bring Some Figgy Pudding -- and the Centennial Act. The bipartisan National Park Centennial Act (H.R. 1124 and S. 886) would provide critical new funding for the parks' growing maintenance and natural and cultural preservation needs in part from a voluntary check-off on individual tax returns. The support of Congress and the administration is needed for this innovative effort to address park needs.
"Most of our national parks could also use a few stocking stuffers," Tipton added. "Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, for example, needs funds to complete a congressionally- authorized and locally-supported acquisition of land with significant archaeological treasures; Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania needs more funding to rehabilitate this Civil War battlefield and its historic cannon carriages, and Sequoia National Park in California needs a budget increase to combat the drug cartels that are running illegal marijuana operations in the park."