Friday, April 29, 2011

Love them budget cuts -- except when it affects "our park"

Put this under the heading of "we don't need that darn federal gubment."

All of us in the West love the national parks and national forests. Some on the Right believe that parks such as Yellowstone -- a national treasure and international heritage site -- takes care of itself, that you just push the self-clean button when all the tourists go home in September and it takes care of itself.

Yellowstone visitation is up over the past two summers. Here are some 2010 numbers from the NPS: 
It has been a record-breaking summer for Yellowstone National Park. Visitation figures for June, July, and now August, have all shattered previous records. Yellowstone hosted 854,837 visitors in August. It is the first time August visitation has passed the 800,000 mark, and is up more than 81,000 from the previous August record of 773,307 visitors set back in 1995. Visitation for the 3 summer months topped 2.5 million. Visitation for the first 8 months of the year was almost 2.87 million.  
With gas prices climbing above $4 per gallon, this summer looks to be another blockbuster for national parks in the West, including my favorites -- Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain. Meanwhile, Republicans in the House want to cut budgets on all domestic spending. 

There's an irony here. Energy exploration is the number one industry in Wyoming followed closely by tourism with agriculture a distant third. Our U.S. Congressional delegation want to cut domestic spending but seem to be O.K. with us spending freely in Iraq and Afghanistan. And $4 billion in tax breaks for oil companies? That's fine with them too. But what about keeping the toilets clean and the roads repaired in Yellowstone? Forget it!

So the National Park Foundation is raising money to make up the shortfall:   
Dear Friend, Imagine for just one moment a world without our national parks…no Yellowstone, no Grand Canyon, no Yosemite. No opportunity to share these great treasures with your children, to build memories together that would last a lifetime. We need your help! Our parks are constantly facing the threat of budget cuts and shortfalls. This year alone our parks faced a final budget cut of more than $132 million. This has had a dramatic impact on the nearly 400 national parks spanning 84 million acres of stunning scenery and historical shrines. We can’t sit idly by while America’s national parks are being compromised. Help us to ensure that our national parks continue to receive the resources they need to protect fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats, restore and maintain hundreds of miles of trails, fund educational programs that introduce children to our parks, and support thousands of volunteers that assist our park rangers and the millions of visitors the parks see each year. Now is the best time to show your support for our national parks. Thanks to the generosity of National Park Foundation Board member Jay Kislak, if you donate now, your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000! America’s national parks belong to you. Please make a generous donation today to NPF. Only you can guarantee the future of our national parks.  

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