Trump budget looks to cut Park Service spending

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A paddleboarder glides on Lake McDonald on a calm summer evening. (Hungry Horse News file photo)

At a time when places like Glacier National Park are seeing record crowds, President Trump’s proposed 2020 budget looks to cut the Park Service budget and it zeros out the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Trump’s proposed budget calls for a total cut of $481 million to the National Park Service budget, including a $77 million cut to the Park Service’s operating budget.

The budget immediately drew the ire of the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group for the parks.

“President Trump’s proposed budget is yet another example of the lack of understanding this administration has about the importance and significance of our national parks and public lands. The administration is proposing to gut the National Park Service’s budget by $481 million, which would cut hundreds of ranger jobs as parks continue to experience record visitation,” Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, National Parks Conservation Association said in a release. “Our parks deserve better and so do the American people. National parks continue to be a pawn in this administration’s budget, and our children and grandchildren will pay the price. Congress must stand up for our parks and reject any cuts that would jeopardize the future of our most treasured places.”

Trump’s Park Service budget is $2.7 billion. The Park Service estimates the budget will support total staffing equal to 18,688 full-time equivalent jobs in 2020.

There’s a bit of irony in the budget numbers, as Trump signed into law March 12 a bill that, among other things, permanently authorizes the Land, Water and Conservation Fund. The Fund has been used to great effect locally, preserving more than 23,000 acres of forestland from development in the Whitefish Range just north of Columbia Falls.

“Budgets reflect priorities, and slashing funding for successful programs that make up the beating heart of Montana like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Park Service – clearly demonstrates this Administration’s lack of commitment to our public lands,” said Montana Sen. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy.

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, had a different take.

“The budget released by President Trump is merely a blueprint. Congress makes the final decision on funding for programs. The President is right to focus on excessive spending as the core driver of the debt crisis. As a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, I will fight to cut wasteful spending while ensuring Montana priorities receive sufficient support.” Daines said in statement.

Daines was at the signing of the public lands package, which had broad support from a variety of Montana conservation groups, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Boone and Crockett Club and the Trust for Public Land.

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