The fiscal 2019 budget for the United States government put forth by the White House would slash 2000 National Park Service jobs, even as the parks are “being loved to death,” according to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. National park visitor levels are at historic highs as Americans opt for outdoor activities and camping in greater numbers. Educational and interpretive programs would bear the brunt of the cuts.
The budget does seek to retire the $11.5 billion maintenance backlog that is hotly debated among government officials and conservationists. However, the funding would come from new energy and mining leases on government-owned land. Environmental groups say that infrastructure repairs at our nation’s treasures should not come at the expense of land grabs.
The $11.5 billion number is contested by naturalists, who say that it is inflated to make it seem nearly insurmountable. Much of the backlog includes dream projects and maintenance of thousands of miles of public highways.
Last year, a proposal to drastically increase entrance fees at the most popular parks was floated by the Interior Department. That fee increase has yet to be implemented, but it would do little to increase park funding, according to experts.