Trump’s Proposed budget plan for the 2021 Fiscal year is targeting the environment despite the current crippling infrastructure of our National Parks and Public Lands.
The Trump administration’s proposed budget targets the National Park Service (NPS), and if enacted, the roll out of the Fiscal 2021 budget plan will have a detrimental impact on the current status of operations of more than 400 national parks. Since 2019, the NPS has seen a 2.9% increase with visitation up to 327 million but also experienced a 14% reduction in staffing due to budget cuts.
The 2021 budget, in short, proposes a 581 million dollar cut to the National Park Service funding. Roughly 2.8 billion is proposed to the National Park Service; prior to the 2020 Fiscal year of 3.37 billion.
This budget cut will impede the necessary care and improvements that the parks need due to another decrease in staffing and an increase in deferred maintenance. NPS is currently struggling with infrastructure improvements to roads, tunnels, monuments, housing, waterways, campgrounds, utility systems, and so much more.
NPS currently has more than a 11 billion dollar backlog in infrastructure maintenance reported back in 2018. The 2021 Fiscal budget plan only mentions 314 million to address the deferred maintenance issue which only addresses 0.008% of the NPS maintenance budget.
NPCA also reports that 60 million of the proposed budget cut will impact the operation budget of National Parks due to lack of funding for the proper resources. This includes the closure of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the possible elimination of initiatives to protect parks and lands from commercial developments.
Within the Budget proposal, “Funding will be cut to the National Park Service’s America’s Treasure Grants which preserves historical buildings, arts and other published work.”
The NPS Americas Treasure Grant is under threat for extinction which targets Native American, Alaskan, and Hawaiian Native organizations.
According to the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA), it is also experiencing increased pressures from developmental projects which will threaten wildlife and recreational sites. The Trump administration only highlights funding for what deems “profitable” such as oil drilling without regards to wildlife preservation of our lands.
Trump’s administration proposed, “Federal offshore oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico continues to set records, averaging 1.8 million barrels per day in 2018. Onshore, the Administration is working aggressively to implement congressional direction to lease land for oil and gas in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the country located in the northeastern end of Alaska. It is home to so much including caribou, migratory birds, and polar bears to which their homes are under attack because of the potentially oil rich opportunity. This also could cause alarming environmental concerns relating to oil contamination to the surrounding land and sea.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a proposed funding decrease of 6.65 billion which will see a 26% reduction from the 2020 Fiscal year of 9 billion. This will cause a major impact on environmental research and funding towards clean air and energy.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which encompasses the Forest Service and other federal agencies, have seen ongoing decreases each year of President Trump’s term including a 17% decrease in 2019 and a 15% decrease in 2020. The 2021 budget plans to slash another 8%. Forest Service is sited as a discretionary and not mandatory funding category under the USDA. Discretionary expenses will experience a decrease in budgeting compared to mandatory programs.
According to the National Park Traveler, the U.S. Forest Service decrease in funding also proposes the closure of many Institutes including the Tropical Forestry and the Pacific Southwest Research Station which includes several outreach facilities in California and the Pacific Islands. The budget cuts will also impact proposed elimination of research geared towards recreation, fish, and wildlife.
“In Trump’s 2021 Fiscal budget proposal plan, he will cut grant funding of 20 million to the Highlands Conservation Act”
The Highlands Conservation Act was created in order to protect and preserve land in the Highland states (CT, NJ, NY, PA) which also includes the Appalachian Trail. This act was to provide yearly spending to the USDA Forest Service for research and other programs geared towards conservation. This will now face a proposed elimination from the Department of the Interior (DOI) budget for the 2021 Fiscal year. This means that current protected areas valued as “high conservation” may fall under critical danger.
The Federal Land Acquisition for the Interior and Agriculture departments will see a 92% cut in the proposal budget for the 2021 Fiscal year. The reasoning within the proposal is to focus on maintaining existing land rather than acquiring additional land.
This will negatively impact the four federal agencies: NPS, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S Forest Service from maintaining any new land which would benefit from protection and research of habitats and other wildlife research.
If the Trump administration’s proposals are realized, we will continue to see a decline in our nation’s vast protected land which will only add to our current devastating climate crisis.
Press Releases from the NPCA: