Hearings and Business Meetings
May 10, 2005
SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM
Mr. Lee Werst
President, Association of National Park Rangers
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.
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
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
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
decreaseof 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 ofvisitor 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).
¡ÖRanger 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
¡ÖInterpretation 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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