March 17, 2005 Although the Bush administration has failed to ask for funding for several preservation programs in its fiscal year 2006 budget, national parks in the Virgin Islands have been spared operating budget cuts, Brian Modeste said Thursday.
Modeste, an aid to Delegate Donna M. Christensen, said that the operating budget for national parks across the country is expected to increase by $50 million.
"This could mean our parks could get a little more money," he said.
However, Modeste pointed out that the there is no money in the 2006 budget to address the maintenance backlog at national parks across the country. According to a press release issued Wednesday by Rep. Nick J. Rahall, ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee, the administration had promised to allocate $1 billion during last year's election campaign.
Rahall said the Bush administration is failing to hold up its end of the federal/state partnerships that have protected national treasures for decades.
"The paltry dollar amounts in this year's budget request fail to protect that which is American our parks, heritage areas and historic sites and reflects the true priorities of this administration," Rahall said.
According to Rahall, historic preservation efforts are slashed by $5 million. Additionally, funding for established National Heritage Areas was cut by 65 percent.
There is no funding in the 2006 budget for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. And the Bush administration did not ask for funding for the Stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund grant program. This program provides matching funds for states and localities to build and maintain public recreation facilities and to protect open spaces.
The press release indicates that National Park Service director Fran Mainella identified the stateside program as a prime example of a program through which the park service continues its long-standing relationships with state and territorial partners.
"Apparently, the administration feels those longstanding relationships are no longer worth maintaining," Christensen said.
Christensen, the ranking member on the House National Parks Subcommittee, was scheduled Thursday to address the subcommittee's oversight hearing on the Bush administration's 2006 budget request
The budget also cuts funding for the Save America's Treasures program by $14 million, and slashes matching grant programs designed to make the park service a partner with local communities in historic preservation.
Rahall visited St. John's national park in January and attended the Friends of the Park annual meeting.
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