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Good news: President Obama and Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are “giant supporters” of our national parks, and it looks like they may very well put government money where their mouths are.
Last Thursday, the bipartisan, independent National Parks Second Century Commission revealed “Advancing the National Park Idea,” a report detailing the diverse committee’s vision for our national parks system as the National Parks Service approaches it’s 100th birthday in 2016. The report, given to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar via a teleconference, is a call for action to protect and enhance our national parks as well as to create opportunities for all Americans to connect to and share our collective national heritage.
The report stresses the need for the government to increase the National Parks Service’s budget by at least $700 million over the course of the next seven years. The commission explained that the funds are needed to increase tourism, promote the enjoyment of the outdoors, and “preserve national treasures for future generations.”
Future generations are of special concern for the commission: The core of the 52-page document focuses on the need to create environmental leadership programs and other opportunities to get America’s youth excited about the outdoors, or at least getthemoutdoors. According to recent polls, a shocking 30 percent of kids do not engage in any form of outdoor activity.
“We at this time have the responsibility to pass these parks on to our children and grandchildren,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, after accepting the report from the 26-member commission headed by former Sens. Howard Baker and Bennett Johnston.
“We have a real need to reconnect people to our outdoors and the natural world,” Salazar said. “This is especially important for our young people.”
Salazar also mentioned that President Obama has already filed a request to increase next year’s National Parks Service’s budget by $100 million—exactly what the commission members suggested in their report.
“At some of the most difficult times in American history, presidents and Congress have had the courage and the foresight to protect our national heritage, and expand the ability of national parks to benefit all Americans,” said co-chair Sen. Baker for a press release. “This is another one of those moments.”
Image Credit: Alaskan Dude