A new report, The Best of America Under Threat from Underfunding released today by Environment Maryland showed that visitorship to Assateague Island National Seashore is on the rise. But even as Assateague Island National Seashore draws more and more visitors, it could face budget cuts in the coming year- leaving it with fewer resources for maintenance, upkeep and stewardship.
“Last year, visitors poured into Assateague Island National Seashore to relax on the beach and do hiking,” said Jon Wong, Environment Maryland’s Campaign Associate. “Yet just as its popularity grows, Assateague Island National Seashore is under threat from underfunding.”
Assateague Island National Seashore relies on its operating budget to hire park rangers and to maintain general facilities and trails. The proposed National Park Service budget for the coming fiscal year calls for cutting Assateague Island National Seashore’s operating budget. With 118,000 more people going to the park in 2009, budget cuts will make it harder for park stewards to keep up with increased usage.
“Now is the time Assateague Island National Seashore should be best protected,” said Wong. “Instead, Assateague Island National Seashore is facing painful cuts, which could force parks keepers to delay maintenance, hire fewer rangers or cut back on programs.”
The threats facing Assateague Island National Seashore are also being seen around the country. Environment Maryland’s report reveals that nationwide, two-thirds of national parks, including parks in nearly every state, saw visitorship climb. However, almost three-quarters of parks that saw this increase in visitors last year could face a budget cut in the coming year.
In addition to operations and maintenance funding, national parks are threatened by overdevelopment and pollution on lands adjacent to or within its boundaries. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established to give parks grants for land acquisition as privately-held parcels of land near the park come up for sale. Unfortunately, many parks never receive these funds.
“Just like Assateague Island National Seashore, parks throughout America are becoming more popular destinations. Parks still offer affordable family vacations and are ideal places for people of all ages to explore the great outdoors,” said Wong. “We need to give our parks the resources to ensure they are just as majestic in 2999 as they were in 2009.
Environment Maryland urged the Obama administration to prioritize national park preservation in their America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Advocates also thanked Senators Cardin and Mikulski for their work to secure funding for the National Parks Service and urge them to continue their work and persuade their colleagues to fully fund our National Parks.
“The Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative aims to protect America’s greatest places and reconnect Americans with the outdoors. Here at Assateague Island National Seashore, we see that happening everyday, as more and more families come to relax on the beach, hike, and see the ponies; now is the time to fulfill the promise of America’s national parks,” said Wong. “We urge our leaders to fully fund the National Park Service budget and permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund so we can all enjoy what is truly the best of Maryland for generations to come.”