After the Trump administration announced devastating budget cuts to America’s National Park Service and the agencies tasked with managing our public lands, the largest paper in Montana, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s home state, chastised him for failing to keep his promises. The Billings Gazette editorial board said of the proposed cuts:
“We have to go back 130 years to find a threat to national parks more drastic than the 2018 Trump administration budget.”
The editorial reminded Secretary Zinke of the priorities he laid out during his confirmation hearing:
- “Restore trust by working with rather than against local communities and state.”
- “Prioritize the estimated $12.5 billion in backlog of maintenance and repair in our national parks.”
- “Ensure the professionals on the front line, our rangers and field managers have the right tools, right resources, and flexibility to make the right decisions.”
After just a few months on the job, Secretary Zinke has already broken these promises.
He has failed to work with local communities, giving them less, not more access
- Secretary Zinke already halted the distribution of state wildlife agency grants, collected through excise taxes on hunters, anglers and boaters.
- In this budget proposal, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports countless local parks, waters, public lands, and hunting and angling access acquisitions, is slashed by 84 percent from current spending levels or about $54 million.
- Zinke’s Bears Ears national monument “review” is a sham and seems to have a predetermined result of either revoking or reducing the monument.
The Trump/Zinke budget proposal would cut funding for maintenance and repair
- The proposed budget would cut another $30 million from the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance budget, putting the estimated backlog at nearly $12.8 billion. These cuts come at a time when our national parks are seeing record attendance, including both of Zinke’s home state parks, Glacier and Yellowstone.
The Trump/Zinke budget would cut staff, putting an even bigger burden on remaining rangers and field managers
- Their budget would cut staff by 6 percent, ensuring that the “professionals on the front line, our rangers and field managers” won’t have the right tools or resources, and will lack the flexibility to make the right decisions. As pointed out by the National Parks Conservation Association, our national parks will face a double whammy due to the seasonal or part-time nature of park employees. A cut of 6 percent could mean an actual reduction of up to 12 percent of park employees – increasing delays for visitors and limiting services.
If you include the near elimination of all land acquisition funding and the shockwaves sent through our rural and agricultural communities by reducing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget by 20 percent, this administration’s assault on our public lands comes into focus.
A budget proposal is a reflection of values. This budget makes clear that Secretary Zinke and President Trump do not value our nation’s parks, public lands, or rural communities.