Monday, February 18, 2008

Where Do the Presidential Candidates Stand on America's National Parks?

I do not usually dabble in politics, but I found this article from National Park Traveler interesting enough that I wanted to share it here with those of you who might be interested. I know our country already has a pretty full plate of issues that need dealt with, but if we do not start investing more in our National Parks, we may eventually not have anything left! Feel free to read the entire article here. Below is an excerpt.

Where do America's national parks figure in the minds of the presidential candidates? It's a good question, but one that so far hasn't elicited much more than a sound bite.

Should we be surprised? Probably not. In the overall mix of domestic and global issues -- energy independence, climate change, war and peace, the economy, health and welfare, genocide, constitutional rights -- the national parks are easily overlooked.....

.....So I turned to the League of Conservation Voters, which has a website dedicated to where the various candidates stand on environmental issues. It's somewhat illuminating in general, but not terribly specific on national park issues.

In fact, the league asked only one specific question regarding the parks, and it was a softball:

From Acadia to Yosemite, America's 390 national parks protect and interpret some of the nation's most treasured natural and cultural resources. Unfortunately, the National Park System has an annual operating deficit in excess of $800 million, a land acquisition shortfall of $1.9 billion, and a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog. The National Park Service will celebrate its centennial in 2016, less than ten years from now, and the American people are united around the idea of fully addressing the needs of the National Park System in time to celebrate the Centennial.

Do you support reinvesting in our national parks through a sustained effort over the next ten years to establish reliable sources of funding and eliminate the National Park Service funding shortfall?

And here's how they responded:

Senator Clinton: "Our National Parks are an incredible treasure, visited by millions every year. I have supported increased funding for our National Parks in the Senate and will continue to do so as President. As First Lady, I served as Honorary Chair of Save America’s Treasures, which worked to preserve America’s historic sites in partnership with the National Park Service."

Senator Obama: "Yes."

Senator McCain: "Yes. I have established a strong and consistent record in the senate for fully funding our national parks. I was the lead sponsor for the National Parks Centennial Act, which would have eliminated the annual operating deficit for the parks. Recently, the Administration, House and Senate passed budget proposing to increase park budgets by $200 million each year to address operating deficits. I support these objectives, but fully protecting, restoring and enjoying our national parks requires more than just additional funding. We need to give the park service the guiding policies that will ensure their protection and the enjoyment of the visiting public. As president, I will continue to champion laws and initiatives that improve air quality, reduce climate change impacts, enhance wildlife populations, and improve education in the parks. By the park system's centennial, and as I expect to be completing my second term as president, we will have a park system that showcases the best educational, environmental and civic engagement programs in the world. We should expect and accept nothing less for our national parks."

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