May 1, 2024

Dear Members of Congress,

We, the members of the National Parks Second Century Action Coalition1The National Parks Second Century Action Coalition is made up of organizations supporting conservation, recreation, outdoor industry, travel and tourism and historic preservation that are dedicated to promoting the protection, restoration, and enjoyment of the National Park System for the long-term benefit it offers our nation. urge increased funding levels in the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriation bill to address significant park understaffing and related operational and infrastructure shortfalls in parks throughout the country. The National Park Service’s (NPS) mission is to protect our nation’s remarkable natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment of Americans and international visitors.

For more than a century, our national parks have remained America’s favorite places, important pieces of our natural and cultural heritage set aside for future generations to explore and enjoy. In 2022, 312 million park visitors spent an estimated $23.9 billion in local gateway communities while visiting NPS sites across the country. These expenditures supported a total of 378 thousand jobs. In addition, America’s outdoor recreation economy supports over 5 million American jobs and contributes $1.1 trillion in annual economic output. In 2022, there were over 50.8 million international arrivals to the United States and research indicates that national parks were a huge tourism attraction for those visitors.

Unfortunately, our national parks are struggling with a substantial operations shortfall, including significant understaffing that is accompanied by an unprecedented increase in visitation. Between 2012 and 2022, NPS has gradually lost 13% of its staff capacity while being spread thinner with a 10% increase in visitation. Therefore, the coalition supports at least $3.138 billion for national park operations in FY25.

Aside from last year, appropriators have provided steady increases for national park operations since 2014 to help address the operations needs, but those increases have not been enough to prevent the gradual erosion of staffing levels due to increased day-to-day uncontrollable fixed costs such as staff cost-of-living adjustments. The final FY24 operations appropriation was particularly devastating as parks needed to contend with these fixed and uncontrollable costs in addition to the first operations cut in a decade. Parks are already short-staffed for many duties including education, interpretation and other visitor services; maintenance; resource protection and management; and more. Support is needed this fiscal year to cover these basic costs and help parks recover from this significant understaffing that has undermined their ability to meet their mission to protect irreplaceable resources and accommodate visitors.

In addition, the National Park Service and its partners are ill-equipped to address the increasing impacts of the changing climate on both natural and cultural resources—including more rapid degradation of buildings and roads, quickening spread of invasive species, increased fragmentation of habitat, and loss of resilient lands protecting biodiversity.

We also support continued funding for the Centennial Challenge program that leverages philanthropic dollars to support projects and programs that improve and modernize our parks. This public-private partnership provides necessary funding for signature projects that improve visitor experiences, address maintenance projects and support educational programs. The coalition supports at least $15 million for national park partnerships in FY25.

Coupled with the operation increases, we support robust investments for national park construction to repair and maintain park infrastructure. The recently enacted Great American Outdoors Act, which created the Park Legacy Restoration Fund, is an instrumental step toward addressing existing priority repairs within our national parks over the next several years. However, to help reduce the growth of NPS’ repair backlog, it is also essential that Congress provides increased funding for the construction needs that keep our national parks accessible and safe. In total, the coalition supports at least $150 million for National Park Service Construction in FY23.

Funding is also needed to address NPS’ current housing crisis. NPS provides government housing to permanent and seasonal staff when conditions of employment warrant it, or lodging is unavailable. There are over 5,500 housing units throughout the system and on average the housing units are 60 years old. Unfortunately, many NPS housing units are in extreme disrepair from years of underinvestment; some are barely habitable. In addition, soaring prices and the rental market shifting to short-term vacation rentals are increasingly making accommodations in nearby communities unaffordable or unavailable. The situation has gotten to the point where potential employees turn down job offers because they cannot find decent, affordable housing within a reasonable commute. We urge Congress to provide funding relief to the NPS to restore, build or rent housing. We request at least $17 million for the Housing Improvement Program.

The Every Kid Outdoors Program provides fourth graders with an interagency pass so they and their families can access national parks and other public lands for free for a year. This free access helps cultivate future park visitors and stewards while also helping to heal youth and their families from the challenges of the pandemic. Funding provides resources for program staffing for administering agencies and park-adjacent, youth-serving nonprofit organizations, to help with costs for transporting students to our public lands and for supporting youth with disabilities in our public lands. The coalition supports $25 million for the Every Kid Outdoors Program in FY25.

We also ask for continued support to extend the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act until a longer-term reauthorization can occur. This will allow the National Park Service to retain over $350 million in critically needed fee revenue that enhances visitor experiences in parks.

NPS needs the financial resources to ensure both domestic and international visitors have the experience they deserve. It is critical that Congress provide significant investments for national parks in the FY 2025 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriation bill.

Thank you for considering our views,

American Hiking Society
American Society of Landscape Architects
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Atomic Heritage Foundation
Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
The Corps Network
East Bay Regional Park District
Explore Brookhaven, Georgia
Friends of Acadia
Friends of Dyke Marsh
Friends of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau
Friends of Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Friends of Saguaro National Park
International Inbound Travel Association
National Park Solutions, LLC
National Parks Conservation Association
National Tour Association
Partnership for the National Trails System
Restore Oregon
Scenic America
The Shenandoah National Park Trust
Smoky Mountain Host of North Carolina
Student Conservation Association
U.S. Tour Operators Association
U.S. Travel Association
Wild Rivers Conservancy
Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Click here to read the letter regarding  FY 2025 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies appropriations.

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    The National Parks Second Century Action Coalition is made up of organizations supporting conservation, recreation, outdoor industry, travel and tourism and historic preservation that are dedicated to promoting the protection, restoration, and enjoyment of the National Park System for the long-term benefit it offers our nation.