Monday, April 16, 2018

National Park Fee-Free Day on April 21

April 21st is the first day of National Park Week, and is being celebrated with a fee-free day in the nation's National Parks.

“National parks connect all of us with our country’s amazing nature, culture and history,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Michael T. Reynolds. “The days that we designate as fee-free for national parks mark opportunities for the public to participate in service projects, enjoy ranger-led programs, or just spend time with family and friends exploring these diverse and special places. We hope that these fee-free days offer visitors an extra incentive to enjoy their national parks in 2018.”

Normally, 118 of the 417 national parks charge an entrance fee. The other 299 national parks do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks that charge an entrance fee. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the military, families of fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

Other federal land management agencies offering their own fee-free days in 2018 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The National Park System includes more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 417 sites, including national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park in every state.

Last year, 331 million people visited national parks spending $18.4 billion which supported 318,000 jobs across the country and had a $35 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Congress Appropriates Funds for LWCF for 2018

LWCF and Congressional Updates
PNTS Statement on the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill (3/30/2018)

The Partnership for the National Trails System thanks Congress for finally appropriating the money to fund Federal agencies—including our partners in the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S Forest Service, and the Federal Highway Administration—through the end of Federal Fiscal Year 2018 (September 30th). Within the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has appropriated $425 million for acquisition of critical lands for conservation and recreation through the Land & Water Conservation Fund—a modest increase over the funding provided for FY 2017. This funding includes $18.359 million to buy land along three of the national historic trails and four of the national scenic trails.

Congress appropriated $2,298,397,000 for the National Park Service to operate the National Park System, including 23 of the national scenic and historic trails. This is an increase of $54.046 million over the funding provided for 2017.

In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System this year Congress, provided this direction: “National Trails System—In preparation for the National Trails System’s 50-year anniversary in 2018, the Committees urge the [Park] Service to make funding the construction and maintenance of national trails a priority.” It remains to be seen how the National Park Service will carry out this guidance.

Congress also appropriated $80 million for the U.S. Forest Service to build and maintain the 158,000 miles of trails on the national forests, including the five national scenic trails and one national historic trail that it administers and sections of 17 other national trails within national forests. The funding provided for 2018 is $2.47 million more than Congress provided to the Forest Service for the trails in 2017 and is the first increase in trail funding in three or more years.

Additionally in the Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has also permanently reauthorized the Federal Lands Transfer Facilitation Act (FLTFA), authorizing the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus Federal land and use the money gained from these sales to buy land for conservation and recreation purposes.

Congress also finally passed a comprehensive Wildfire Suppression funding program that should enable the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to pay the increasingly greater costs of suppressing wildfires and eliminate the need to “borrow” funds from other programs to do so.

We applaud Congress for finally resolving these several long-standing issues, but we are disappointed that Congress did not re-authorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which expires on September 30, 2018.