Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson questioned the National Park Service about its budget request for FY2013. At the hearing of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which Simpson chairs, he asked NPS Director Jon Jarvis about the Park Service’s ability to address the maintenance backlog across the national park system, restoration efforts on the National Mall, and quagga mussels infestations on Park Service property, including Lake Mead.
Maintenance backlog and budget priorities:
“At the outset, I want to make an observation,” began Simpson. “Your budget request makes a sizeable reduction from last year in construction funding, which adds to the maintenance backlog—now in excess of $11 billion—that the Park Service is facing. The budget request also reduces funding for park operations, which may cause some park units to reduce visitor services and operating hours.
“At the same time, the budget request for federal land acquisition is increased by 4% and the request for LWCF stateside grant funding is increased by 34%. It seems to me that we ought to be addressing long-term maintenance and repair needs, as well as meeting the needs of the visiting public, before making additional land acquisitions that will only add to the historic funding backlog.”
Restoration of the National Mall
Chairman Simpson also asked about ongoing efforts to restore the National Mall, including repairs to the Washington Monument, which was damaged during the earthquake last summer. “I’ve said this before, but we are loving our National Mall to death. When Idahoans come out to Washington, DC, they are disappointed that the National Mall doesn’t look like the lush green place they’ve seen in pictures. What are we doing about that?”
Director Jarvis outlined current restoration efforts, including restoration of the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial, implementation of an irrigation system on the Mall’s grass panels, and efforts to mitigate the impact of large events on the Mall. Recently a private donor matched the $7.5 million appropriated in FY12 to address damage to the Washington Monument and its elevator, allowing repairs to move ahead so that the monument can reopen.
Aquatic Invasive Species
As he has done in previous hearings, Simpson raised the issue of aquatic invasive species, honing in on the Park Service’s efforts to prevent the quagga mussel infestation at Lake Mead from spreading to Idaho and other areas. “I want to make sure that the National Park Service recognizes the magnitude of this problem and is partnering with states and other federal agencies to prevent the spread of invasive species—not just focusing only on keeping quagga and zebra mussels out of the areas it manages.”
Today’s hearing was the tenth of 16 budget oversight hearings Simpson has scheduled for the subcommittee this spring.