What the National Parks Plan to Do With an Extra $408 Million

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The National Park Service turns 100 next year and President Obama proposed a birthday present of a $3 billion budget to upgrade aging national parks infrastructure and help celebrate the centennial. That's a $408 million increase from 2015 to be distributed between the 405 park units, 23 national trails, and 60 wild rivers the NPS covers.

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"The President's request contains all the elements necessary for those of us who tend to 'America's Best Idea' to repair an aging infrastructure, respond to climate change, host school field trips, and provide rangers to greet nearly 300 million visitors with the highest standard of public service," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in an official statement

The budget increase falls into two large appropriations. The first, $100 million for the Centennial Challenge, covers wide-ranging initiatives including urban youth engagement, boosting park capacity, and ramping up interpretation and education projects.

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The second large appropriation is $300 million for the Second Century Infrastructure Investment. The funds will focus largely on 4,000 non-transportation (anything besides roads, trail, parking lots, and bridges) maintenance projects that have been put off. That means repairing lodges and visitor centers, along with the less glamorous aspects of parks like electrical grids and water treatment facilities.

According to the 2016 Budget Justification, such big spending will come full circle: For every dollar allotted to the National Park Service in the president's 2016 centennial budget, $10 is returned to the national economy in the forms of visitor spending, travel and tourism, and construction jobs.

But the budget, says National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson, is far from final. "Some people think presidents budget is money, but congress appropriates the funds."

Jarvis will appear before a House appropriations subcommittee to answer questions on March 5 in the next step to seeing the $3 billion budget enacted.

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