Rep. Dicks upset with park service budget cuts

Peninsula News Network

Port Angeles, WA - 3/25/04 - 6th District Congressman Norm Dicks is none too happy with a proposal to cut the Olympic National Park budget by cutting hours.

Park managers at Olympic and other National Park units are scrambling to try and cut costs in the wake of a serious dropping in available funding from the Bush Administration. Locally, Park Superintendent Bill Laitner has been looking at a number of steps, from closing the Hurricane Ridge Road for a month, to shutting down the visitor’s center in Forks or using fewer seasonal rangers, although no final decisions have been made.

But in a strongly-worded letter from Dicks and Republican Congressman Charles Taylor of North Carolina, NPS Director Fran Mainella is being told her agency needs to find other ways to save money than closing facilities and chopping service to the public. As a suggestion, Dicks and Taylor says the Park Service administrators need to trim plans for big, expensive projects and cut down on foreign travel. The letter says NPS spent over $50 million on travel in 2002 including more than 200 trips to China, South America and Europe.

Mainella is scheduled to discuss the Park Service budget Thursday before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which is chaired by Taylor, with Dicks as the ranking Democrat on the panel. The pair called the park service approach “alarming”, although they acknowledge the agency has had some unplanned expenses, such as the need to deal with tougher security measures at parks and monuments. Still, Dicks and Taylor says NPS should manage its money better, noting Congress has allocated an additional 6-hundred million dollars for maintenance in the past 5 years.



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