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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

National Park Service: Recent Appropriations Trends - R42757


Laura B. Comay
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

This report examines trends in National Park Service (NPS) appropriations over the past decade, as well as other statistics such as the size of the National Park System, numbers of recreation visits to the parks, and NPS staffing levels. NPS receives appropriations in the annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.

NPS appropriations rose and fell over the course of the decade. The total appropriation for FY2013 shows an increase compared to a decade earlier (FY2004) of 23% in nominal dollars and 3% in inflation-adjusted dollars. This total includes a supplemental appropriation in P.L. 113-2 for recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which severely damaged park units on the East Coast. Absent the disaster relief supplemental, the FY2013 appropriation would have been 6% higher in nominal dollars but 11% lower in inflation-adjusted dollars than that of a decade ago.

Five accounts make up the NPS appropriation. The largest by far is the “Operation of the National Park System” (ONPS) account, which supports the activities, programs, and services that form the day-to-day operations of the park system. The majority of ONPS funds are provided directly to managers of individual park units. This account grew over the decade by 4% in inflationadjusted dollars. Because of the Hurricane Sandy supplemental, two other NPS accounts—the Construction and Historic Preservation Fund accounts—also show growth when compared with appropriations a decade earlier. However, absent the supplemental, all the Park Service accounts other than ONPS would show declines over the decade of anywhere from 20% to 70%. The Construction account is used to address, among other things, the Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog, which has continued to grow.

The funding changes took place in the context of stability in the size of the National Park System, which was about 84.5 million acres throughout the decade. NPS staffing levels hovered around 20,000 for the first several years, and rose somewhat toward the end of the decade, peaking in FY2010 following economic stimulus measures enacted in FY2009. Visits to the parks were generally higher toward the end of the decade, and peaked at around 285 million in 2009.

Date of Report: November 29, 2013
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R42757
Price: $29.95

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