The National Park Conservation Association wants to impress upon members of Congress the enduring value of America’s federally preserved wild and scenic places. As part of a board campaign to end cuts in government spending meant to protect and maintain our national parks the NPCA wants ordinary citizens across the country to share their favorite pictures of themselves at play in the parks they love most. Armed with these snapshots gathered together into a compelling video the association aims to demonstrate that in spite of these tough economic times there is no better investment than the environment.
“National Parks are economic generators and that’s a central message of the campaign,” said Shannon Andrea director of media relations at the NPCA. “We’re trying to make the point that not only do national parks mean a lot to people but they create jobs and generate income for the communities that surround them.”
It’s estimated that the national parks contribute more than $30 billion dollars to the U.S. economy every year. For every dollar of investment tax payers reap $10 in return. At 1/14th of 1 percent of the federal budget spending on the national parks is already a pretty meager drain on the Uncle Sam’s pocketbook. And park supporters suggest that cuts to current allocations could actually do more harm than good when it comes to settling the national debt.
“Decision makers must act now to come up with a common-sense plan that addresses the debt in a thoughtful, holistic way,” wrote NPCA president Tom Kiernan on the association’s web site. “At this critical time, we cannot lose sight of the forest for the trees. We need our national parks not only for their majesty and symbolism, but also for the billions of dollars they generate for local economies.”
The National Park System will be included in massive budget cuts set to occur when the federal sequester goes into effect on March 1, 2013. Unless Congress comes up with an alternative the Budget Control Act will result in an immediate reduction in discretionary spending to the tune of $1.2 trillion over the next seven years. The likely impact on the parks is fairly simple to quantify:
* Some parks could be forced to close campgrounds and visitor centers, or even close altogether;
* Seasonal rangers, who ensure that visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience, would be drastically reduced;
* Visitor centers’ hours of operation could shrink, and outreach to surrounding communities would likely be scaled back;
* A shortage of law enforcement staff would leave archaeological and paleontological resources poorly protected from looters, and animals and plants exposed to poachers;
* School groups would face the prospect of being turned away;
* Reductions in rangers could encourage an increase of trafficking and
growing of illegal drugs in some national parks;
* Museum collections in several parks would continue to languish;
* Emergency response times in many areas could increase;
* Monitoring of endangered species and other scientific work likely would be delayed or dropped;
* And ultimately, many visitors to the parks, including international tourists who spend their money in businesses that provide thousands of jobs, might choose to go somewhere else.
The NPCA wants to show what spending cuts truly mean to the millions of people who use the national parks each year. Scott Kirkwood, editor-in-chief of National Parks Magazine hopes the Snapshot photo campaign will put the value of parks into stark terms that go beyond the political rhetoric that can be all too confusing.
“These days is about telling the story, not just about your organization but the people you represent,” Kirkwood said in an interview. “We spend a lot of time talking about global warming and park funding and high maintenance backlogs. But what it really comes down to is trying to preserve the experience people have in the parks. We want to get out of the inside to beltway kind of talk and get back to what we’re trying to preserve.”
The National Park story is best told by those visitors who use them every day. The NCPA Snapshot Campaign offers park supporters the opportunity to speak directly to members of Congress through the power of the visual image, real people actively using the wild places they love. Those willing to participate are encouraged to share their photographs through a variety of social media portals. The deadline for submissions is February 21, 2013
E-mail your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
Post to NPCA’s Facebook page