|Senator Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader|
Senator Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader
Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
Senator Jeff Merkley, Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, & Related Agencies
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Chair, Committee on Appropriations
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Chair, Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, & Related Agencies
|Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House
Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader
Senator Richard Shelby, Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, & Related Agencies
Congresswoman Kay Granger, Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations
Congressman David Joyce, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, & Related Agencies
November 14th, 2022
RE: Include public lands disaster relief in the next FY23 funding vehicle
Dear Senators and Representatives:
We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of Americans, are dismayed by the devastation this year’s natural disasters have caused to communities throughout the country and commend the bipartisan aid you have provided for their needs to date. We write with deep concern not only for these communities but for Yellowstone, Lake Mead, Midway Atoll, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and other national parks and wildlife refuges that have also been significantly damaged and need your support. Damage includes sudden disasters including flooding and hurricanes as well as damages that have developed over time in recent years, including reduced lake levels in Lake Mead and otherwise on the Colorado River and permafrost melt in Denali. These events have damaged resources and created costly infrastructure challenges impacting recreational access and public enjoyment.
As you negotiate the next disaster relief portion of the FY23 appropriations bill, we respectfully urge you to include our federal public lands management agencies. The list of damage to our treasured lands and the natural and cultural resources is long, and these agencies cannot absorb the costs. This bill should provide robust funding sufficient to address repairs for all areas impacted by natural disasters this year and to ensure that reconstruction is done with resilience to reduce the impact and cost of future weather events.
We commend Senate appropriators’ proposed funding for these needs and urge that a final conferenced bill build on this effort. The FY23 Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill included $1.7 billion dollars for costs related to natural disasters for the National Park Service (NPS), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Bureau of Indian Education, as well as wildland fire suppression. At the time the bill was introduced, funding was needed for natural disaster damage to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Denali National Park and Preserve, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Yellowstone National Park and other parks. Unfortunately, the list of public lands needing repair and recovery funds has since grown to include several other refuge and park units due to Hurricane Ian as well as flooding, catastrophic wildfire and other natural disasters.
The agencies responsible for protecting and restoring these lands and waters are already facing inadequate budgets that have led to understaffing, infrastructure repair backlogs and other concerns. Natural disasters only compound these challenges. If relief is delayed, NPS and the USFWS will be forced to absorb these costs and/or borrow unobligated balances from other accounts, undermining long-awaited projects at protected areas throughout the country. These agencies simply cannot absorb these costs. Furthermore, the amounts are so high that annual spending bill allocations cannot meet the need.
The impacts of these disasters do not only affect our parks but their surrounding communities as well. Gateway towns share in the devastation when public lands are impacted, and their hardship is compounded when the tourism that fuels these communities is obstructed. As just one example, the towns of Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana have seen businesses devastated due to the closure of the north entrances to Yellowstone. These communities deserve and need your strong support.
We also support the Senate Interior bill’s efforts to fund Bureau of Indian Education disaster relief and its funds for wildland fire management and recommend consideration of cultural resources funding like that provided in past disaster supplementals to assist with damage assessments and surveys of historic resources and grants for the restoration of historic structures.
In conclusion, we urge you to ensure that the next disaster supplemental funding bill or provision not only provide shelter, power and other basic necessities to struggling communities, but also support the recovery of our public lands and waters, vital access to those lands, their historic and natural resources, the need for their resilience, and the integrity of their recreation and tourism economies. We appreciate your consideration of these critical needs as you negotiate disaster relief provisions in the expected December FY23 omnibus appropriations bill.
|American Society of Landscape Architects|
American Hiking Society
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society – Friends of the Refuge
East Bay Regional Park District
Evangelical Environmental Network
Friends of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
International Inbound Travel Association
National Park Hospitality Association
National Parks Conservation Association
National Tour Association
National Wildlife Federation
National Wildlife Refuge Association
|Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Association
Rocky Mountain Conservancy
Student Conservation Association
The Friends of the Sonoran Desert
The Wilderness Society
Washington's National Park Fund
Western States Tourism Policy Council
Wild Rivers Conservancy
United States Tour Operators Association
United States Travel Association