Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Mr. Lee Werst

President, Association of National Park Rangers

SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE

ON NATIONAL PARKS

"NATIONAL PARK SERVICE FUNDING NEEDS"

Statement of Lee Werst

President, Association of National Park Rangers

May 10, 2005

Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting the Association of

National Park Rangers (ANPR) to share with you our thoughts on the funding needs for

the National Park Service.

My name is Lee Werst. I am President of ANPR, and a current National Park Service

employee. I am appearing before you today on behalf of the Association, and am doing

so on my own time and at my own expense. As such, my statement should in no way be

construed as representing the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, or

any NGO other than ANPR.

The Association of National Park Rangers, formed in 1977, is a professional organization

comprised of dedicated National Park Service employees from all regions, salary grades

and specialties. ANPR is neither a union nor a bargaining unit, but rather is a volunteer

association formed to advance the ranger profession and support the perpetuation of the

National Park System and the National Park Service.

Funding Needs

Last November, we wrote a letter to the Congressional budget conferees for the fiscal

year 2005 budget complimenting them on the generally favorable budget prospects for

the National Park Service. We wrote:

On behalf of the approximately 1,000 members of the Association of National

Park Rangers (ANPR), we thank you for your leadership in the development of

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the fiscal year 2005 Interior appropriations bill . . . Over the years, inflation, costof-

living increases, natural disasters, and more recently, homeland security have

eroded park budgets to the point that we must either "lapse" vacant positions or

trim park services. In many cases, parks have had to do both. . . . We hope that,

within present fiscal constraints, you will give the highest priority to National

Park Service funding, with special attention to the park operations account.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to our National Park Service and

System

The 2005 budget as enacted combined the interests of the conferees and the

administration in its budget request, resulting in a 2% increase in total discretionary

spending. Mr. Chairman, we would like to thank Congress for its continuing work and

support of the National Park Service with its funding needs in these fiscally difficult

times. In our testimony today, we would also like to help identify what we believe are

continuing shortfalls in the field due to increasing personnel and other costs that need to

be addressed for the long-term.

Fiscal Year 2006 Administration Budget

The fiscal year 2006 budget as submitted by the Administration provides an overall

decrease of 2.8% in total discretionary appropriations from fiscal year 2005. On the

surface, there are some apparent pluses, which we support, despite the overall decrease.

For example, the budget category of visitor services -- which includes interpretation &

education, ranger law enforcement (excluding the United States Park Police), visitor use

management, health and safety, and concessions -- is at a 10-year high as a percentage of

total NPS discretionary spending (14.1% in 1997, to 15.4% in FY06 budget request).

In addition:

¡Ö Ranger law enforcement funding and protection is at a 10-year high as % of total

Visitor Services (33.5% in 1997, to 35.5% in 2006 request); and

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¡Ö Interpretation and education is at a 10-year high as % of total discretionary

spending (6.9% in 1997, to 7.9% in 2006 request), although as a % of total Visitor

Services is basically flat over 10-years.

That being said, it still remains that the overall discretionary appropriation has declined in

real terms since the last substantive increase in FY 2001. Discretionary spending in FY

2001 was nearly $2.3 billion. The FY 2006 budget request is $2.249 billion, for a dollar

decrease of nearly 2%. Adjusted for inflation, this amounts to nearly 9% decrease in the

past 5 years. When you add the annual adjustments in federal salaries, overall

discretionary funding in real terms is noticeably diminished.

We are not preaching "the sky is falling" in the 2006 budget. Rather, we wish to assist

policy makers and appropriators in understanding the long-term concerns of field rangers

and other employees beyond a one-year budget picture.

Park Stories

In testimony over the past 15 years before this and other Congressional committees,

ANPR has tried to share stories from the parks about conditions that might reflect on

proposed legislation or policy. I would like to again share some of these with you.

For instance, at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park in California, great strides have

been made to eradicate illegal cultivation of marijuana "plantations" within the park

boundaries. Project funding to target eradication and interdiction efforts has helped the

park, along with many cooperating agencies, to destroy much of these crops. The park

greatly appreciates, and has successfully applied, the project funding it has received.

However, to fully control and completely eliminate this damaging activity, we must look

beyond just project funding. The park has redirected as much internal funding as

possible to continue this effort. Further redirection of funds would require the closure of

some facilities or the neglect of park visitors or resources. The ranger staff is currently

spread very thin, thus putting full prevention efforts beyond the ability of the current

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budget to accomplish. To prevent the initial planting and cultivation of this clandestine

activity will take on-going investigation and apprehension of perpetrators, as well as

other technical measures. To adequately undertake this mission, the park estimates a

need for an additional 4.8 FTE for the long-term and a $448,000 budget increase.

The impact of this illegal activity, which takes place in many of our parks, is not only to

the society at large, but also to sensitive and valuable park resources. The growers

provide water for cultivation to these fields by damming park streams, laying

thousands of feet of plastic irrigation pipes, and indiscriminately using fertilizer and other

chemicals. This causes runoff and pollution of streams and other public resources. This

disturbance of natural plants and soil opens the way for the introduction of invasive

exotic plant species, thereby requiring further time and resources for their removal.

Permanent funds are needed to deter the damage to park resources for the long-term.

Business Plan Examples

In other parks, the impacts of budget shortfalls can be illustrated by looking at the

findings from published business plans prepared and audited for the National Park

Service by MBAs for numerous parks across the system. Here are some of the findings

for three parks:

At Gettysburg National Military Park, the business plan identified an operations and

routine maintenance annual shortfall of nearly $3.6 million in the FY 2001 budget,

compared to an actual budget of just over $6.1 million in that same fiscal year – a 37%

shortfall. Since that time, the park’s financial situation has not improved. Although the

park saw an overall increase in operations funding to $6.45 million in FY 2005, there was

an estimated decline in actual purchasing power over that period of $734,900. In order to

live within this shortfall, park managers have reduced staff from 141 permanent and

seasonal full time equivalent positions in FY 2002 to 122 FTEs in FY 2005.

For Shenandoah National Park, the business plan for FY 2003 showed a need of $19.6

million to fully fund operations, but had available only $12.8 million from all funding

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sources, an operating shortfall of $6.8 million. Although the park’s inflation-adjusted

base budget increased 14% between 1992 and today, personnel costs increased by 21.3%

in the same period. The impacts? -- Although Shenandoah has one of the worst air

pollution problems of any park in the country, it’s air resources specialist position has

now been vacant for nearly two years because of insufficient funding. Another example:

The park offered nearly 800 fewer ranger-led interpretive programs in FY 2004 (1,032)

than it did in FY 2002 (1,824).

At Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the park’s business plan analysis for

FY 2002 identified $15.9 million in needed annual operations funding and 238.4

positions needed in a full time equivalent workforce (FTE). However, the park had an

$8.9 million total budget and only 134.6 FTE. Of that sum, nearly $8.5 million was

obligated to personnel costs, leaving only about half a million for all other needs,

including utilities, supplies, vehicle costs and materials.

Mr. Chairman, these are just a few examples from the field. We also would like to make

a few brief comments about overall NPS funding needs and funding successes.

Employee Benefit Costs

The inflation of salary and personnel costs can quickly lead to parks needing to make

significant reductions in visitor services and resource protection to absorb these costs.

We want to emphasize our on-going concern that these costs be fully covered in each

successive budget.

One example of these increases is the fact that as more employees retire under the Civil

Service Retirement System (CSRS), the percentage of remaining employees under the

Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) will continue to grow, eventually to

100%. While saving overall federal dollars in future retirement annuities, the year-toyear

cost to the NPS in covering FERS benefits as opposed to CSRS, which is the lessexpensive

system to fund up-front, will only grow. For example, in 2001, nearly 68% of

all federal employees were working with FERS benefits. The percentage of direct salary

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compensation that an agency is required to pay for these benefits grew from 28% of

salary in 1990 to 35% in 2005.

This is not an argument about FERS. It simply illustrates that over the next ten years

nearly all NPS employees will require greater up-front benefit compensation under

FERS, which averages 30% of base salary versus 14% under CSRS. This, combined

with the fact that overall personnel costs often exceed 90% in many parks, will require an

even greater budgetary support.

Fee Demo

The previous fee demo program, which was replaced in 2005 by the Federal Lands

Recreation Enhancement Act (with a 10-year sunset), has succeeded in providing

substantial financial support to many parks for infrastructure needs, maintenance backlog,

and visitor uses. This has been a very successful program of park and resources support

provided over the past many years by Congress. As one western park superintendent

recently voiced, "Fee demo is excellent!" We agree, and thank Congress and the

administration in continuing this important and critical program. We urge permanent

legislation prior to the 10-year sunset to continue infrastructure support, increased

resources protection, and visitor use programs.

National Park Centennial Act

One of the more promising ideas we have seen to address the NPS long-term backlog

needs, and provide substantial needed funding for the natural and cultural resources

challenges, is the proposed National Park Centennial Act (introduced in the Senate by

Senator McCain as S.886 on April 21 and in the House by Congressman Souder as

HR.1124 on March 2). Mr. Chairman, while we understand this is not a hearing on this

bill, we are encouraged by this effort to bring the NPS to a sustainable level by 2016, the

100th anniversary of the establishment of the NPS in 1916. While it may not provide the

ability to restore permanent staff levels lost by attrition, setting a goal for the decade

makes sense. It is analogous to the very successful "Mission 66" initiated in the 1950s

that looked forward over a ten-year period to identify park deficiencies, and to help bring

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the NPS housing, visitor centers, and other facilities up to modern standards of visitor

services by the 50th anniversary of the NPS in 1966. We would be pleased to provide

further testimony if desired at any future hearing on this bi-partisan legislation.

Conclusion

In summary, Mr. Chairman, we continue to be optimistic, yet cautious about the next ten

years or so, as there is the great potential for the 2006 and future budgets to result, if not

careful, in over-all deterioration in field-level staffing in parks and important program

activities. However, we look forward to supporting NPS management in its efforts to

effectively implement the budget as finally enacted, and joining with them and with

Congress in identifying the long-term needs and short-falls facing the Service in the next

10 years, particularly at the field park level.

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for inviting the Association of National Park Rangers to

testify here today. I will be glad to answer any questions you may have, or assure that the

Association provides you further information on any issue that I cannot answer to your

satisfaction.

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