The national parks you know and love could benefit enormously from infrastructure and budget bills moving through Congress right now.
Our national parks from Yellowstone to Acadia are seeing record-breaking visitation. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present serious challenges for our country, our national parks have been flooded with visitors seeking fresh air, family time, and an escape from their daily grind.
Staff at the National Parks Action Fund can relate — running an organization dedicated to protecting our great American outdoors, from indoors, can be difficult to say the least. Grand Canyon Zoom backgrounds do not even come close to the real thing.
But our national parks have been running on fumes for decades. Current funding levels are not enough to keep park ecosystems resilient and prevent crumbling infrastructure. Although Congress has made valiant efforts to address this problem, notably with the passage of last year’s Great American Outdoors Act, this recent boom of visitors to our national parks exposes just how vulnerable they are.
Parks were severely short-staffed even before this massive influx of visitors, with Park Service staff struggling to keep their heads above water while providing visitors with safe, once-in-a-lifetime park experiences.
Park Service staff make every single national park whole. They’re scientists who care for our diverse and unique public lands, from endangered species to ancient fossils. They are emergency responders, who perform daring rescues in helicopters or jet boats. They are teachers, expertly guiding visitors back through time to learn about America’s diverse history. Without them, parks won’t be preserved for future generations. That’s why we need to staff up parks, and give rangers the resources they need to keep our parks safe, wild, revered and beautiful.
Word on Capitol Hill is that in the coming weeks, our national parks and their staff could receive billions of dollars of desperately needed funds as part of a historic bipartisan infrastructure deal and budget bill making their way through Congress. This would be a giant leap forward for our parks — more money means more staff, more programming, and a chance to protect public lands as they face a massive climb in visitors and climate change.
This new infrastructure deal is only one of two amazing Congressional opportunities to better protect our parks coming up in the next few weeks. As members of Congress discuss budget reconciliation, an additional avenue to put federal dollars toward key investments, there is a chance for bold action to protect our parks from climate change.
Climate change is the greatest threat facing our national parks today, and it’s not hard to see why. The glaciers at Glacier National Park are melting. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park regularly floods, putting hundreds of years of history in danger. While wildfire is a naturally occuring part of many ecosystems, just this week intensifying blazes fueled by climate change are instead ravaging ancient trees in Sequoia National Park.
Right now, the Park Service is doing its best to meet this historic challenge head-on, but they need help. Current budget reconciliation proposals would be a saving grace, with a potential for billions dedicated to climate resilience projects at parks across the country, protecting precious natural and cultural resources from devastation.
The reconciliation bill that Congress is considering, combined with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, could provide unparalleled opportunities to address climate change to protect national parks and our nation. Our parks need this kind of bold action in order to remain accessible, less vulnerable and preserved for generations to come.
And you can help make that a reality. Tell your members of Congress to support this dual legislative effort, which offers one of the last chances to address the climate crisis and beyond. Tell them right now.
With their help and yours, we can help create a new day for our national parks.