Budget freezes new National Park Service expansions

The Bush administration has called for a freeze on expansion proposals at the National Park Service, aiming instead to eliminate the agency's $4.9 billion maintenance backlog. Bush's fiscal 2002 budget proposal allocated approximately $440 million for park restoration, but made no new requests for resource studies. The Park Service conducts resource studies to gauge whether it's appropriate to add historic sites to the national park system. The administration's move to halt new studies will not only allow the Park Service to complete repairs at several of the 384 parks, memorials and monuments in the national park system, but also will allow the agency to clear up a backlog of 35 resource studies, some of which have lingered since fiscal 1999, according to David Barna, chief communications officer for the agency. Currently, the backlog includes the Carter G. Woodson home in North Carolina and Harriet Tubman sites in Maryland and New York. Although the President can designate national monuments, Congress is the branch of government that most commonly mandates new additions to the national park system. "On average in the last 10 years, Congress has created about three new parks per year, so we get about 30 per decade," Barna said. The President's moratorium has angered some members of Congress, who now have to shelve projects they had hoped to see added to the agency's list of potential expansions. Last year, lawmakers added $1 million to the agency's fiscal 2001 budget so the Park Service could create an inventory of its facilities and assess their condition over the next five years. They provided the agency with another $74 million for work on deferred maintenance projects. In addition, an estimated $25 million a year in fees collected from more than 270 million park visitors each year is used to manage the 384 areas under the agency's care.
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