December 13, 2022
Senator cites Acadia visitor surge as example of hiring necessary; view questioning HERE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chair of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, today pressed a top Biden administration official on two of his top priorities for the National Park Service (NPS): securing enough funding for necessary park maintenance and ensuring sufficient staffing of America’s greatest treasures. In a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, King questioned Department of Interior Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau on the Department’s plans to address both of these issues as it processes the NPS funding of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. The Deputy Secretary agreed that more needs to be done to support the Parks System.
Beginning his remarks, Chairman King highlighted the administration’s recent budget requests and the need for additional funding to ensure maintenance and upkeep of our National Parks
“What bothered me is the administration's budget for maintenance in the national parks was inadequate. The general rule of thumb is 2 to 4% of capital value for maintenance every year. I think the budget this year is about 1%. That's not an indictment of this administration. That's been the pattern for the past 25 or 30 years. That's how we got into this hole,” said Senator King. “This committee and the Congress worked very hard on the Great American Outdoors Act to tackle the maintenance backlog. But it's pretty frustrating to see that we're still digging the hole. So I hope you'll take back to the department the point that we can't expect Congress to come to the rescue of the maintenance backlog every four or five years, if indeed the budget is inadequate and makes the hole deeper every four or five years.”
“Thank you. And thank you for your leadership and partnership on these issues. I will definitely take that back, including to OMB,” the Deputy Secretary replied.
After securing funding in the Inflation Reduction Act, the Chairman also asked about the department’s hiring plan to staff National Parks:
“Another area of increased funding has been in the Inflation Reduction Act for staffing at the national parks. And I wanted to inquire if the department is moving toward implementation. Senator Daines and I have called for 23,000 FTEs at the national parks because we're having a huge increase in visitation and in fact, we have lower staffing than we had 15 years ago. 10 or 15 years ago. Do you have a hiring plan and will you be able to get to the 23,000 figure in the reasonably foreseeable future,” Senator King asked.
The Deputy Secretary responded, “Thank you. And thank you again for these investments. The Park Service has developed internal guidance and hiring plan directed towards this summer. As you know, Senator, the largest demand period and largest stress on our national parks is during the summer season.”
“Last summer, we had 4 million people at Acadia National Park,” the Senator replied.
The Deputy Secretary concluded, “So part of our strategy to take advantage of these resources is focused on seasonal hiring in the coming year. And the Park Service has developed guidance disseminated to the parks for exactly that purpose.”
Senator King is among the Senate’s loudest voices advocating for public lands and encouraging outdoor recreation. In May, he pressed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on the importance of adequate staffing in our national parks and the need to address maintenance backlogs. In the April episode of his “Inside Maine” podcast and radio show, King highlighted the importance of National Parks and outdoor recreation with National Parks Subcommittee Ranking Member Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.); Senator King was also awarded the inaugural National Park Foundation (NPF) “Hero” Award. Senator King helped lead the passage the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) into law; the legislation includes the Restore Our Parks Act – a bill led by King – and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Permanent Funding Act. The historic legislative package continues Senator King’s career-long focus on conservation efforts, dating back to his work prior to running for elected office through his years as Governor and his service in the Senate. Over the course of his time in the Blaine House, Governor King was responsible for conserving more land across Maine than all Governors before him combined.