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Witness Panel 2
Mr. Robert ArnbergerCoalition of National Park Service Retirees
On behalf of the
COALITION OF NATIONAL PARK SERVICE RETIREES
Submitted for the Record of the
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
SENATE U. S.
Hearing to Review the National Park Service’s Funding Needs
For Administration and Management of the National Park System
May 10, 2005
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear before this subcommittee which is examining the management and operational capacity of the National Park Service. I am Robert Arnberger, recently retired from the National Park Service in August, 2003. Before my retirement I dedicated 34 years to the protection of our national park system working my way up the ladder from seasonal park ranger, to park historian and interpreter, to protection ranger, Chief Ranger, to Superintendent and finally to Regional Director. My last assignment as a Superintendent was at
Grand CanyonNational Park managing one of our nation’s greatest “crown jewels” from 1994-2000. My last assignment, from which I retired, was the Alaska Regional Director in charge of over 54 million acres of our nation’s wildest land. I spent virtually my entire career in the field familiar with all aspects of operations that are required to carry out the National Park mission.
Today, I represent The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, former employees who have joined together in a non-partisan group to bring their views and expertise to the table in the national endeavor to protect our National Park System. Many of the Coalition’s 390 members were senior leaders who received awards for outstanding stewardship of
’s top natural and cultural resources and represent more than 12,000 years of cumulative experience in managing our nation’s park system. America
I congratulate you on the focus and scope of today’s hearing.
’s national park system needs more champions like yourself, and others, because without champions the system of parks as we have known them will become an unfortunate footnote of our nation’s history, rather than a glowing example for the nation’s future. Despite the fact that the Congress has established strong standards of care for the units of the national park system, financial and political support from successive congresses and Democratic and Republican Administrations have almost never provided the necessary resources so that the National Park Service can indeed “….conserve [the resources] and provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” One former senior manager of the Park Service in the Coalition summed up the situation this way: “The headlines are always the same”. The deferred maintenance backlog continues to grow and today’s park operational deficits become tomorrow’s backlog. Looking in the crystal ball of the near future considering this nation’s growing deficit, the war on terror, and diminishing federal budgets suggests that our efforts to properly care for our national heritage found in the parks will never catch up to the needs. The national park system does not suffer alone in trying to carry out the grand democratic ideals of our nation’s way of life under increasingly difficult circumstances. Just balancing the federal budget is daunting, much less coping with the myriad other problems of leading and managing our democracy. Since champions of the park idea are found throughout our Congress and our society we believe that there is still an opportunity to continue the legacy of American parks and assure their rightful place in our American culture. America
The Coalition recognizes some of the gains over the years to the National Park Service budget but the needs have far outstripped the gains and there is still much to do. The headlines repeat themselves about deferred maintenance needs and operational shortfalls at parks all across the country. Professional and objective reports that document the need for more law enforcement rangers languish without effective action. Budget deficits have created severe staff shortages at all levels which have reduced abilities of parks to provide for the enjoyment of park visitors, to protect them during their visits, assure the roads, restrooms, sewer and water systems meet standards, basic science and historic preservation requirements are carried out. A year ago the Coalition released the findings of a new national survey based in part on information from 12 representative
national parks. The Coalition report found the following: budgets were down at eight of the 12 parks; employee levels were reduced at all of the parks; six of the 12 parks already had or would cut visitor center hours; all six of the surveyed historic parks would allow key resources to further deteriorate without needed maintenance; nine of the 12 parks had made cuts that would result in reduced experience for visitors; and, most surprisingly, some parks were even cutting vital law enforcement positions needed to protect visitors and natural and cultural resources – even though NPS policy specifies “no net loss” in these positions. In summary, the Coalition’s research, speaking directly with park managers, found that many parks were leaving permanent jobs unfilled, reducing the hiring of needed seasonal employees, shortening visitor seasons, curtailing visitor center hours, eliminating interpretive programs, and cutting back on resource protection patrols. Frankly, they have no other options. Last year the Administration called these “service-level reductions” to lighten the blow of what they really are –they are cuts, pure and simple. U.S.
Field operations have been cut to the bone and there is no room for continued cuts. Indeed, maintaining the status quo for “deferred opportunities in the future” is not sufficient either because the status quo is already below the standard required to carry out core mission responsibilities. I talked to one field superintendent two weeks ago who indicated 92% of his budget was in fixed costs. Each year it costs more to run our parks and those increases are never really covered. A senior division chief in one of our largest eastern parks reflects what really happens: “year after year Congress authorizes mandatory pay increases to federal employees without fully funding them. In FY 04, we received a 4.1 % pay increase with less than a 1 % park budget increase. As managers, we groan when we see proposed salary increases because we know it will diminish our ability to fulfill our mission—and at the same time we are happy for our staff who work so hard”. Additionally, a factor sometimes forgotten relates to the conversion of the federal retirement system from Civil Service to FERS. This same division chief relates, “With the federal match of retirement accounts, overhead for employees has skyrocketed from about 11 % to close to 50 % in some cases and as Civil Service employees retire replaced by FERS employees the salary overhead for parks increase. It seems as if the budget increases we do get do not accommodate this easily predictable demographic trend.” The parks do not face these issues alone. The Washington Office and Regional Offices face similar problems. I managed a Regional Office and can accurately say that these offices provide desperately needed technical and staff assistance to all the parks. Yet, the operational budgets that get to the parks are impacted by the lack of funding at all levels and this division chief relates, “every year the operational budgets are hit by assessments – from Congress and the Administration. In FY 04 we incurred an across-the board reduction; a further .646 % Department of Interior reduction; a .59% reduction called for in the Omnibus Bill; a uniform assessment; an assessment for computer software licensing; and a 2% assessment from our Regional Office to help them help us”.
The National Park Service is caught in a self-perpetuating downward spiral that devalues the very purposes why these places have been determined to be the most significant sites of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage and set aside in a national park system of global pre-eminence. The rush to “privatize and outsource” to commercial interests devalues the importance of the “people’s parks” and has wasted valuable time and money to evaluate what park management responsibilities can compete with the private sector. This has not only devalued the importance of these national landscapes and historic shrines as just another “commercial enterprise” but has sent a similar message to stressed, under-funded and underappreciated professional staffs who do jobs no one else in this country can do. The reduced buying-power of budgets that actually reach the parks creates staff attrition and inability to carry out the National Park Service core mission. This attrition forces greater reliance by parks on additional private sources such as increasing numbers of volunteers, interns, foundations, donations and friends groups being counted upon to carry out the basic functions of managing a national park, rather than providing a “margin of excellence” as they used to do. While we celebrate and congratulate the spirit of voluntarism, friends groups, and foundations, the inability of the federal government to carry out its core responsibilities has blurred the bright funding line that must exist between those responsibilities of the government and those of an assisting partner. This places a heavy burden upon the philanthropic organizations seeking funds for parks who must answer queries about why the government is unable to adequately fund our parks and questioning the true commitment of this nation to adequately provide for its national park system. And the sad truth is that all of those outside sources combined are actually not filling the gap in the basic functions. Even with all that generosity of voluntarism and philanthropy, the system is still falling behind.
Rather than focus on failures and fault—though there is much fault to spread around in both political parties and numerous Administrations—the Coalition believes we should celebrate the success of the national park system to present day—and there is much success to be shared amongst us all. Successive generations of Americans, speaking through their elected representatives, have decided that these places are special and merit the most special protection in perpetuity. Let us celebrate this American optimism found in our national park system with a bold and renewed commitment to better care for our national legacy. The solutions to solving the problems are not exclusively based in budget health and increased funds, but also in developing a renewed bipartisan political commitment to solving long term problems with something more than short-term solutions. We are in this “for the duration” and we must develop better long-term support systems that are consistent in growing the park system forward responding to this need.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has offered suggestions about how we might end this downward spiral, based upon a report released in September 2004 titled, “A Call To Action: Saving Our National Park System”, a copy of which we provide to the Committee to be submitted to the formal hearing record.
- There is an annual shortfall of approximately $600 million required to meet operational needs in the National Park Service. A recurring budget increase will restore Service ranger protection and education programs, fill lapsed positions throughout the Service, provide facility managers with funds required to care for federal assets, and continue the recent programmatic gains in science and resources management. The budget hemorrhage must be halted because “today’s deficits are tomorrow’s backlog”.
- It is time to invigorate a national dialog to explore the issue of governance of our national park system to determine how our government can best carry out its role, on behalf of the people, to preserve our system of national parks and to pass them on unimpaired to future generations. It is time to end the repetition of headlines about park deficits, deferred maintenance, and reduced visitor services. We recommend convening a non-partisan National Parks Blue Ribbon Commission dedicated to restoring the values of our national park system by evaluating the mission and roles of a national system of parks for the 21st century, and deriving from that the true budget and personnel needs and the appropriate governance organizational models. The Commission would report to Congress, the President and the American public. Let this effort create a bold, multi-year “Keeping the Promises” plan focused upon the future of our park system within the broader national and international context of environmental management, the retirement of deferred projects, and the restoration of operational budgets returning our park system to greatness by the Centennial Anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.
Working with all the champions of our national park system, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees stands ready to continue the work we carried out as respected career professionals on into our retired life - to assure our parks are preserved and enjoyed by our citizens leaving a legacy to be proud of for the generations yet to come.
Mr. Greg MooreExecutive DirectorGolden Gate National Park Conservancy
Executive Director, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
San Francisco, California
Testimony to the National Parks Subcommittee
of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Mr. Chairman and honorable committee members, thank you for the invitation to testify today about the roles of philanthropy and volunteerism in our national parks. I’m
Greg Moore, Executive Director of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit membership organization that works to preserve the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, to enhance the experiences of park visitors, and to engage community members in conserving the parks for the future. The Parks Conservancy was established in 1981, and since then it has provided the National Park Service with nearly $80 million in support for park projects and programs.
The Parks Conservancy is one of over 100 nonprofit organizations nationally, working as cooperating associations and friends groups, to support the mission of the National Park Service. These organizations, along with the National Park Foundation, engage community members and the private sector in philanthropy and volunteerism and help protect, enhance and interpret park resources. Many have been active for decades. Recently, the Yosemite Association celebrated its 80th anniversary and the Rocky Mountain Nature Association has been serving this national park since 1931.
In total, these organizations provide over $100 million annually in philanthropic aid to the National Park Service and strive to make lasting positive impacts on park resources and on the park visitor experience. Today, I will address four key questions:
§ What motivates philanthropy and volunteerism in our national parks?
§ How do federal funding and the work of the National Park Service enhance philanthropy and volunteerism?
§ What specifically, do the American people consider the federal responsibility to our national parks?
§ What can the future bring in terms of philanthropy and volunteerism?
What motivates philanthropy and volunteerism in our national parks?
The American ethic of charity and volunteerism has made a remarkable impact on our national parks. In addition to more than $100 million in annual philanthropic support, last year 140,000 volunteers donated 5 million hours to the national parks at a value of $85.9 million. What motivates this level of commitment?
Few things inspire Americans like the immense natural and physical beauty and the historical poignancy of national parks. We understand that national parks require not only the care and investment of the National Park Service, but our direct support and involvement as well. Americans entrust the National Park Service to lead the protection and stewardship of these cherished places and, in effect, to be the ultimate caretaker of our nation’s heritage. We expect and respond to this leadership. Throughout the National Park system, whether at Golden Gate, Yosemite, the USS Arizona Memorial, Yellowstone, or
, philanthropic projects have been inspired by visionary Park Service leadership, implemented by effective and eloquent nonprofit partners, and funded by generous donors. Rocky Mountain National Park
Organizations like the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy open direct and active channels through which Americans can contribute their time and charitable gifts to augment the critical work of the National Park Service. In the San Francisco Bay Area, community members share a very strong connection to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and recently contributed $34 million for the restoration of Crissy Field, a former army airfield in the Presidio on the
Bay. A lead gift of $18 million by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, followed by a major public campaign of the Parks Conservancy, rallied the community behind this project. Over 2,000 gifts and 3,200 volunteers transformed this national park site. Today, these donors and volunteers retain their commitment and generosity to our parks. shoreof San Francisco
To make projects like Crissy Field meaningful to the community that supports them requires not only executing these park transformations, but an ongoing commitment to preserve over time what has been transformed and restored together. Federal operating funds can be leveraged with volunteer support in this long-term stewardship. As one example, each year close to 16,000 people donate over 350,000 hours of volunteer time to preserve park habitat, lead interpretive tours and support education programs for children throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This type of support is motivated throughout the National Park system by welcoming volunteers as part of the “park team,” giving them fulfilling work and expressing active appreciation.
How do federal funding and the work of the National Park Service enhance philanthropy and volunteerism?
Effective partnerships depend deeply on the National Park Service tradition, commitment, professionalism, knowledge, and active staff presence in our parks. These capacities are essential to philanthropy working in a dynamic and effective way. There are federal responsibilities, resources, and talents that philanthropy would never want to replace, and realistically, philanthropy does not have the capacity to serve as a substitute. In fact, philanthropy depends upon these National Park Service attributes and resources to serve as its foundation for its positive impact in the parks.
Americans do not see their philanthropic support as a substitute for the role of the National Park Service. Donors and volunteers are keenly aware of the Park Service role and follow its lead in addressing park needs and enhancements. But increasingly donors are also making their contributions contingent on the assurance that park budgets will be there to preserve and care for the positive park improvements resulting from their donations. In fact, removing or diminishing federal funds when donor dollars are available would be a fundamental disincentive to giving and a serious, perhaps lethal blow to the future of national park philanthropy.
A proactive and sustaining approach involves a deep partnership of the Park Service, donors and nonprofit support groups. Organizations like the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy work very closely with the National Park Service to understand its priorities and to chart our strategic course in unison. The Conservancy also helps the Park Service understand which of its priorities are likely to have donor appeal, and we work together to ensure that donor-supported projects and programs are operationally and financially sustainable.
What do donors and volunteers consider the federal responsibility to our national parks?
Speaking at a recent conference on partnerships for public lands, David Rockefeller Jr., philanthropist and former vice chair of the National Park Foundation, stressed the important distinction between federal and philanthropic roles in our national parks. Our mission, he said, is “not to build roads or employee housing units, nor to build or maintain infrastructure, but to create strong connections between visitor and place.” He called this distinction the “Bright Line” between federal responsibility and private opportunity.
The healthiest public-private partnerships result from a shared vision and an appropriate balance of investment. Donors want to be actively engaged in creating the vision for our national parks, while respecting key federal responsibilities. What is seen as the federal responsibility? Donors tend to see this clearly. The philanthropic sector expects a fundamental foundation for donors to build upon – a foundation comprised of adequate “park base” operational support, basic park infrastructure, visitor safety, essential resource management, key amenities, upkeep of National Park facilities, expertise in interpretation, and Park Service staff in direct contact with visitors.
Current realities pose some challenges to this view. Many park operational budgets are stretched thin and even essential park infrastructure improvements need to be phased in over many years. Basic services can be heavily strained. But these are not functions that can or should be funded through nonprofit support groups and philanthropy. In the words of my colleague, Ken Olson, who leads Friends of Acadia, “friends groups are here to provide the margin of excellence, not the margin of survival.” This margin of excellence comes through the over $100 million in annual giving and over 140,000 volunteers across our National Park system. It rests upon an essential foundation: the Park Service annual budget of over $2 billion and an NPS workforce of over 20,000 permanent and seasonal employees.
What will the future bring in terms of philanthropy and volunteerism?
Philanthropy and volunteerism are, and will continue to be, essential forces in achieving the mission of the National Park Service. These forces will grow in scale and impact if Americans are asked to share in the vision for our national parks, given respect for their views and involvement, provided with clear and expeditious ways to contribute, and treated with sincere appreciation as they donate time and resources.
National Park Service policy and legislative authorities should embrace and enhance philanthropy and volunteerism – and facilitate their flourishing on behalf of our parks. Federal funding and policy could significantly motivate philanthropy to our parks through greater use and flexibility with challenge grants, more efficient methods to combine federal and philanthropic dollars toward a desired outcome, quicker systems to review and approve philanthropic campaigns and gifts, more openness to donor recognition, and a general culture of gratitude and respect to those generous enough to give to our parks..
Our continued momentum will be the greatest when leveraged from a firm foundation of federal funding and national park professionalism. This foundation can be strengthened by recognizing philanthropic partners (the National Park Foundation, friends groups, and cooperating associations) as strategic and valued allies in the vision for our national parks and working with them in an open, facilitating and collaborative manner. Upon that foundation, generous Americans and the philanthropic sector can and will achieve the margin of excellence – a margin so essential to our national parks, which preserve the best of our country’s natural, scenic and cultural heritage.
 National Park Service, Volunteers-In-Parks
Mr. Lee WerstPresidentAssociation 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