STATEMENT BY ROBERT G. STANTON, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND RELATED AGENCIES CONSIDERING THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2001

March 29, 2000


Mr. Chairman, and members of the Subcommittee, I welcome the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the fiscal year 2001 budget request of the National Park Service.

At the outset, let me say that it has been a pleasure to work with this Subcommittee over the years in our joint effort to preserve and protect America’s natural and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of all citizens. On behalf of the many employees of the National Park Service and the public we serve, I wish to express my appreciation to you and the Subcommittee members for your involvement, your valued contributions, and your steadfast support to the cause of the national parks and our charge to manage this Nation’s premier park resources. I commend you, Mr. Chairman, and this Subcommittee for your efforts to support the national parks through fee legislation which has enabled the National Park Service to make credible and substantive improvements in addressing the maintenance and resource protection backlogs. Our recent efforts have focused on streamlining the review process and expediting the obligation of fee funding for project and program needs at our parks. We are showing some progress in this area.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to receiving significant benefit from the fee program for the betterment of the national parks, the NPS has also undertaken, with the support and guidance of the Department and the Subcommittee, a number of measures to improve our management and accountability systems. We continue to work towards improving our day-to-day practices to ensure the public receives the best possible service and results. We have gotten better at identifying what our needs are and being able to justify why investments are needed to sustain our park system and programs. All of our parks and offices are engaged in a massive effort to effect and fully meet the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act. This budget continues our efforts to link budget requests to accomplishment of our strategic goals. Closely aligned to the budget request is the NPS Annual Performance Plan for fiscal year 2001, developed pursuant to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). The Annual Performance Plan expresses the goals that the NPS expects to achieve during FY 2001. Fulfilling these goals depends on funding received, among other factors.

The goals for 2001 have been refined on the basis of actual performance results from the NPS Annual Performance Report for fiscal year 1999, the first such report issued. Submission of our first Annual Performance Report represents a milestone in the Park Service’s increasing understanding and expanding implementation of GPRA, and reflects how much the NPS has learned during the past several years about making performance management work as its business system.

We have also continued a National Parks Business Plan Initiative in a number of pilot parks that analyzes and documents the past, present, and future financial condition of the park. The Business Plan Initiative was conceived to take the first steps toward clarifying park financial status to a degree that the Congress or the public can understand the financial inputs and outputs of the parks, and identify any shortfalls or inefficiencies that need to be addressed. We are working to develop quantitative operational standards to be used as a measure of where a park should be versus current operational levels. We are pleased to report to you that all 12 pilot parks have completed the data collection phase and initial analysis, and we expect that these parks will have their final products completed and available for review during the second quarter of this fiscal year.

OVERVIEW

The fiscal year 2001 budget request of $2.042 billion in appropriated funds for the National Park Service reflects a net increase of $233 million above the fiscal year 2000 enacted level. This budget supports the NPS mission and related goals as expressed in the 1916 Organic Act, the National Park Service Strategic Plan, and the FY 2001 Annual Performance Plan. Specifics of the NPS budget include a request of $317.5 million for the President’s Lands Legacy Initiative, and funding increases of $27.6 million for park operations to address shortfalls in a number of program areas; $18.5 million for the Natural Resource Challenge to support ongoing efforts to improve the management and stewardship of the Service’s natural resource programs; $2.3 million to fund cultural resource program needs including funds for continued protection of damaged or degraded historic and prehistoric resources in desert southwest parks; and $1.3 million for expanded partnerships with Native American communities. In addition, our request seeks balanced and appropriate funding levels to continue needed maintenance and infrastructure improvements within our construction and maintenance accounts.

Mr. Chairman, of the many milestones in the Nation’s conservation history – the creation of the National Park Service stands as one of the most visionary and far-reaching. Through the proposals and provisions identified in this budget, we have the unique opportunity to build on this historic endeavor and move closer to ensuring that the national parks are preserved as a celebrated legacy for all time. As I sit before you, I am mindful of the National Park Service mission, and challenged by the goals that I have set for myself which are centered on strengthening our preservation programs, improving services to a record 290 million visitors, expanding our partnership efforts, diversifying our workforce to reflect more accurately the face of America at every park, and engaging the Nation’s youth in the many programs and activities of the National Park Service. I believe, and am confident, that the budget before you and the interests I have articulated do in fact convey the Service’s highest priorities at this time.

In the years that I have served as Director of the National Park Service, I have visited many park units, met with a great number of the 20,000 employees who labor on behalf of the public, and have spoken to many visitors to the parks. I come away from each experience renewed in mind and spirit; awed by the scenery, history, and culture we strive to protect; and personally inspired by the dedication, loyalty and commitment of our employees. This exposure has allowed me the opportunity to appreciate fully the honor of this position and the unparalleled opportunity to serve in this capacity.

Prior year budgets that we have presented to this Subcommittee have requested added funding to: shore up the System’s deteriorating infrastructure in an effort to improve the safety of visitors and our employees; allow for needed enhancements to our administrative capability in an effort to enable broader access to the parks by a wider audience; expand support of programs external to the NPS, but critical to the long-term survival and viability of the national parks; and strengthen the overall capability of our resource stewardship programs which will positively impact our mission. Our achievements in these specific areas have been recognized and noted by the public as evidenced by their continued and overwhelming support and their participation in the many programs and activities of the National Park Service. This budget continues these commitments.

I believe that the national parks are basic to the Nation’s character: they are representative of our people and our culture; they are reflective of our civilization; and they are symbols of the freedoms we champion, and the heritage we all share. Guided by the mandate that the parks be managed for public use in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired, the NPS offers a comprehensive program of interpretation, maintenance, resource and visitor protection services to an estimated 290 million visitors annually at 379 units. Our increase request this year of $90.3 million for the Operation of the National Park System appropriation responds to continued demands in these visitor service and resource management areas. Within this total is a request of $24.050 million and 300 FTE to address a number of specific operating needs at 72 park units, three trails, two foundations and the U.S Park Police; and an increase of $3.4 million and 41 FTE at 17 parks as part of the Natural Resource Challenge to address species protection as part of a larger effort to assist in native and threatened and endangered species recovery. Also included is a request of $2.0 million for coral reef protections at ten parks focusing on activities required to implement Executive Order 13089 (Coral Reef Protection) where the funding will target threatened coral reef resources at park units in the Pacific West and Southeast Regions; $1.472 million at nine parks to begin preparation for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration where the funding will be used to develop educational and interpretive, resource protection, and visitor safety programs; $644,000 for Native American Partnerships at two parks to provide new opportunities for cooperative resource conservation programs between the National Park Service and Indian tribes; and $450,000 to respond to security needs at four units of the National Park System. This funding will be used at park areas that have identified a wide range of operating needs, including the need to increase operating hours at visitor centers, increase the offerings of tours and programs, fill key positions, continue educational partnerships with schools and outreach organizations, address increasing threats to safety due to deteriorated infrastructure, the need for increased patrols, and the need to address retention issues for the U.S. Park Police.

Mr. Chairman, throughout the 85-year growth and evolution of the National Park System, the Congress has included a number of designations for national park areas, i.e., natural, historical, recreational. Natural area is the oldest of park designations, and is anchored in the 1872 establishment of Yellowstone National Park. Today, the number of parks containing important natural resources totals approximately 270. I believe that the needs and requirements of these areas are fundamental to the survival of the National Park System, and central to our meeting the "in perpetuity" mandate ascribed under the 1916 Organic Act. In support of this effort, and in response to the many complex issues and challenges confronting these parks, I have made a priority during my tenure, a program to improve the quality and integrity of our natural resource base. To do that, this budget proposes increased funding of $18.5 million for the Service’s second year investment in the Natural Resource Challenge -- an initiative that has been summarized in a comprehensive 5-year action plan designed to strengthen the capability of the Service’s resource stewardship program and satisfy the critical and much broader preservation mission of the NPS. Over the years, the Park Service has shifted its concept of natural resources management from simple protection of individual features or species to the preservation of total environments and landscapes. The NPS recognizes that the protection and preservation of natural parks is dependent upon the preservation of broad-scale natural resource components and of the dynamic processes which generate and sustain them.

The Natural Resource Challenge highlights a new program direction for the Service and places a higher priority and renewed emphasis on on-the-ground services that will strengthen employee skills and secure the resources needed to respond adequately and appropriately to the deterioration of natural resources. This initiative will provide the NPS with an integrated, results-oriented framework for implementing and assessing processes for managing park operations. Findings and other results of this effort will be useful in addressing future challenges to the NPS and will enable park managers to communicate this information to others and integrate it into the broader decision-making process.

The NPS has worked closely with the U.S. Geological Survey in framing the DOI FY 2001 science priorities, which includes funding in the USGS budget to support National Park Service resource management needs. The NPS recommends full funding of the USGS science request.

To address expanded needs in cultural heritage preservation, we have requested additional funding of $2.310 million for the cultural resources management program. Included in the total is $1.0 million which we propose to use to accelerate cataloging and preservation measures within the collections management program; $1.0 million to initiate a systematic program to digitize images of the Service’s archival and museum collections and make these accessible to the public; and an additional $310,000 to provide continued support of the Vanishing Treasures Initiative, with the increase being provided for emergency projects and for the preservation and treatment of prehistoric and historic sites in three desert southwest parks: Aztec Ruins National Monument, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, and El Morro National Monument.

As mentioned earlier, and central to this budget, is our request for funding in support of the President’s Lands Legacy Initiative. We are asking the Committee to approve a $317.5 million funding program to protect land resources at the Federal, State, and local government levels. The President, in his January State of the Union Address, called for your assistance and support by stating, "As our communities grow, our commitment to conservation must continue to grow. Tonight, I propose creating a permanent conservation fund, to restore wildlife, protect coastlines, save natural treasures, from the California redwoods to the Florida Everglades. This Lands Legacy endowment would represent by far the most enduring investment in land preservation ever proposed…This is a gift we should give our children and our grandchildren for all time…". The need, I believe, is undeniable. The request would provide $170 million in matching grants to State and local governments to strengthen their public land protection and recreation programs under the L&WCF State Grant and the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Programs; and would provide $147.5 million for the Service’s priority land acquisition needs which are critical to long-term management of the national parks. This year’s budget would help fulfill the Secretary’s pledge to complete the purchase of lands within the boundaries of Civil War sites including funding increases for such parks as Gettysburg National Military Park, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, and Manassas National Battlefield Park. Additionally, priority land purchases will be effected at Great Sand Dunes National Monument, two Southern California parks (Santa Monica National Recreation Area, and Mojave National Preserve), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and at Nez Perce National Historical Park for land needs associated with celebration of the bicentennial of the 1804 -1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition. We will also maintain the current high level of effort dedicated to restoration of the South Florida ecosystem.

Our request of $30 million for millennium grants will enable the Service to continue at the FY 2000 enacted level for the Save America’s Treasures program. This funding will be used to address some of the Nation’s most urgent preservation needs as identified by Federal agencies, State governments, and Indian tribes, to protect the historical and cultural resources that are America’s treasures. Matching grants will be made available and awarded competitively to assist Federal and non-Federal entities preserve the nationally significant cultural resources under their stewardship.

Mr. Chairman, the National Park Service mission is such that major funding efforts must be devoted to park-oriented programs, particularly those involving the protection and preservation of park values, and the provision of services and facilities for the protection, comfort and safety of the increasing number of park visitors. Key components of the Service’s FY 2001 budget focus on infrastructure improvements, i.e., a systematic program that allows for the continuation or completion of ongoing construction projects, the planning and development of needed new facilities, and the restoration/rehabilitation of existing structures and facilities, including historic properties that have undergone decline or deterioration. The latest physical inventory assigns responsibility to the National Park System for approximately 18,000 buildings and housing units, and more than 2,000 complex maintenance systems, as well as a number of other special features. These assets must all be maintained at an operational level that ensures continued protection, preservation, serviceability, and use by the public. The FY 2001 budget includes a request of $108.4 million for line-item construction and the Service’s Regional Maintenance Programs (cyclic, repair and rehabilitation, and cultural cyclic) include a request of $90.2 million for renovation, restoration, and rehabilitation project needs. As you know, our specific action in each of these areas is guided by the 5-year planning process established by the Department of the Interior. Added revenue made available from fee and other sources for specified maintenance and resource protection projects, I believe, will keep us on course in addressing requirements in these areas.

Effective implementation of the Department's Five-Year Maintenance and Construction Plan and long-term improvement of the NPS facilities requires better data on current conditions as well as a maintenance management system that can provide consistent reliable maintenance information to managers and to Congress. The NPS FY 2001 budget includes $1.0 million for ongoing condition assessments and $2.0 million for continued development of the NPS maintenance management system.

To further the Service’s effort to improve the infrastructure of the national parks, other funding sources are tapped to address requirements related to the more than 8,000 miles of public park roads and 1,861 bridges and tunnels under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. About 60 percent of the roads are paved. These roads serve recreational travel and tourism by national and international visitors, protect and enhance natural resources, and provide sustained economic development in rural/urban areas surrounding parks. Legislation enacted through the Transportation Department will provide $165 million annually from 1999 through 2003 for the Park Roads and Parkways through the Federal Lands Highway Program. The funding will be used by the NPS to address critical needs in these three categories: $120 to $125 million annually to prevent further deterioration of existing park roads and parkways infrastructure; $25 to $35 million annually to complete the gaps in the congressionally authorized parkways; and $5 to $15 million annually for alternative transportation systems.

Our budget also proposes a restructure of the Park Management activity within the Operation of the National Park System appropriation that will serve to highlight the needs, requirements, and responsibilities of the United States Park Police. As a result of this restructure, a new United States Park Police subactivity has been created within Park Management. To support this new activity, we are requesting an increase of $1.5 million for the USPP that will be used to address pay and benefit issues and improve the work environment of officers and other employees. This action has been taken to reflect the interests and concerns of both the Administration and this Subcommittee, but more importantly signals our longstanding commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our personnel and our visitors.

This budget also includes increases for management improvements that focus on improved accountability, web-based information management, park partnerships and business practices, and resource inventories. We have also included in this budget a request for minimal funding of our administrative and information systems to continue to meet, take advantage of, and comply with the many advances in information technology. The NPS believes that to protect better the national parks, information about these resources, the threats we face, and what can be done to protect the parks must be made available to a wider audience who we believe is both willing and eager for this information to assist and support the agency in protecting America’s heritage resources. These efforts, I am confident, will further the mission of the NPS and directly complement ongoing management activities.

In closing, I believe the objectives we have proposed for the coming year, bring to the forefront the programs that will best enable us to fulfill our commitments in carrying out our legislative mandate and the directives of the Administration in preserving and protecting the resources of the System and providing quality park opportunities for millions of Americans. With your continued support and leadership, the Service’s FY 2001 budget will be a positive contribution towards that end and will have longstanding impact on the National Park Service. We can take justifiable pride in this legacy and reinforce the foundation that will help our successors meet the even greater challenges that will inevitably lie ahead.

 

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my prepared remarks. I will be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.