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A Boost for National Parks

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

To the praise of environmental groups, President Bush proposed the largest-ever annual increase for the national parks yesterday. The Interior Department is requesting a $258 million increase in the parks' operation budget as part of a "centennial initiative" that aims to direct $3 billion from public and private funds to the parks over the next decade.

The parks currently experience an $800 million annual operations shortfall. Blake Selzer, legislative director for the National Parks Conservation Association, estimates that the new funding would allow the hiring of 1,000 additional seasonal maintenance workers and 1,000 seasonal park rangers and would fund other programs as well.

Bush asked for a total of $10.6 billion for Interior, a $300 million increase over its current budget. The White House assumes that over the next five years the department will collect $8 billion by auctioning off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, something that seems unlikely given congressional opposition.

The administration also proposed a $7.2 billion budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. Frank O'Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, questioned why the administration is asking for $35 million in a proposal to promote cleaner diesel engines when the 2005 energy bill called for $200 million.

-- Juliet Eilperin

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