Four Ways Congress Can Protect Our Parks

Today we celebrate the National Park Service’s 101st birthday. That’s 101 years of park rangers and staff protecting the places we love most and telling stories that need to be told.

And now it’s up to all of us to ensure that these most special places are preserved for their next 100 years and beyond.

Our members of Congress have the important responsibility of ensuring those who work for our National Park Service (NPS) have the resources and support they need to care for our parks, now and well into the future. Here are just a few things that Congress can do to help mark this anniversary:

1. Increase funding for our national parks

The Trump Administration has recommended a 13 percent cut to funding for the National Park Service — the most drastic proposed cut we’ve seen in over 70 years.

Investments in national parks bring stability to local communities and their tourism economies, provide jobs, and ensure the best possible visitor experience.

WHAT CAN CONGRESS DO? Congress can REJECT this proposal and fund the NPS so rangers can get back to work protecting wildlife, maintaining our trails, guiding us through amazing landscapes and teaching us about our history.

2. Preserve and protect our national monuments

For more than a century, the Antiquities Act of 1906 has been an invaluable tool used by both republicans and democrats to protect our lands and waters. From the Statute of Liberty to the Grand Canyon, the Antiquities Act has been used to preserve places of natural, historic and cultural significance.

Unfortunately, this law, and some of the places it’s been used to protect, is at risk. Recent news reports indicate that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing the shrinking of sites like Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon.

WHAT CAN CONGRESS DO? Congress can REJECT Secretary Zinke’s recommendations to alter the size and management of our national monuments. And congress must stand up against the continuous legislative attacks on the Antiquities Act.

3. Uphold the integrity of the Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a tool that has been used for nearly 50 years to protect and improve the wellbeing of wildlife, flora and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Viewing wildlife in beautiful national park scenery is one of the chief reasons people visit parks. The NPS’s own emblem features a bison, a species once faced with extinction but, thanks in part to national parks, is now thriving.

WHAT CAN CONGRESS DO? Congress can PROTECT our wild and iconic species that thrive in our national parks by rejecting any attempts to undermine or dismantle the Endangered Species Act.

4. Maintain protections for clean water

Our national parks are only as healthy as the rivers, lakes and streams that flow through and around them.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a two-step process to review and revise the Clean Water Rule which defines the “Waters of the United States.” The Clean Water Rule recognizes the interconnectedness of our waters and helped to clarify protections for our water.

Development of the rule took many years and hundreds of public meetings. Thousands of public comments were reviewed and considered.

WHAT CAN CONGRESS DO? Tell the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt to maintain the protections in the current Clean Water Rule so that national parks and their wildlife, visitors, and gateway communities can enjoy clean water.

When Congress returns to Washington, D.C. after Labor Day, they will have a lot of work to do. Help us ensure that work includes protecting and preserving our national parks.