State Director, Environment New Jersey
State Director, Environment New Jersey
New Analysis Details Impacts of Budget Cuts to Beloved Parks
Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center
As Congress approaches another deadline on the federal budget, a new analysis by Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center & PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, entitled Death by a Thousand Cuts, exposes the challenges facing the Delaware Water Gap as a result of mounting funding cuts to the National Park Service.
“These cuts have real world impacts,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “With over 5 million visitors every year, the Delaware Water Gap is one of the most popular places to hike, fish and camp on the East Coast. And now, funding cuts are threatening this green gem.”
The Delaware Water Gap offers us endless recreational opportunities, provides critical habitat for wildlife, and protects the source of fresh drinking water for our local communities. The Water Gap encompasses 70,000 acres straddling the Pennsylvania and New Jersey banks of the Delaware River. There are miles and miles of trails, several beaches, canoeing, mountain climbing, fishing and hunting access, along with camping grounds and a section of the Appalachian Trail.
“In a very real sense, the government shutdown isn’t over: Republicans are continuing to shut down our national parks, one day and one dollar at a time,” said Congressman Rush Holt, (D-12). “Over the last three years, the National Park Service has been cut by $315 million, hurting park maintenance, the availability of campgrounds, and services to millions of park visitors. It’s time to end the slow-motion shutdown and implement a funding strategy that will protect America’s national parks.”
Parks closures during last fall’s government shutdown capped off the third straight year in which Congress cut funding to the National Park Service operating budget. Additional cuts from the March 2013 sequester make for a 13 percent reduction in funding for our parks in today’s dollars over this period.
“Let’s give our parks a fresh start in 2014,” said Adam Garber, field director of PennEnvironment. “If we continue on this path, our grandchildren could be forced to explore parking lots and fracking wells instead of river valleys and mountaintops.”
Death by a Thousand Cuts gives concrete examples of how the Delaware Water Gap has been affected by the funding:
- $473,224 was cut from the budget for the Delaware Water Gap
- Seasonal staff was cut by 17 staff members
- The highly popular Dingmans Falls Visitor Center was closed during weekdays throughout the summer and fall
- 2 Water Gap sites were closed: Kittatinny Point (NJ) and Milford Beach (PA)
- Hiring freeze for all vacant fulltime staffing positions
Environment New Jersey and PennEnvironment were joined by Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) from New Jersey and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-17) from Pennsylvania for the release of their analysis.
While the budget deal passed in December may allow for some increase in the parks budget, it is up to Congressional spending committees to decide the actual funding levels this month.
“We applaud Congressmen Holt and Cartwright for standing up for the Delaware Water Gap, and all of our nation’s parks by ensuring they’re provided the full funding they desperately need during the upcoming budget negotiations,” O’Malley concluded. “New Jersey park lovers are counting on it.”
Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces through research, public education, outreach and organizing. For more information, visit www.environmentnewjersey.org.
PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces through research, public education, outreach and organizing. For more information, visit www.pennenvironmentcenter.org.