January 15, 2013
We, the undersigned, representing millions of Americans across the country, write to you with deep concern about the threat to funding for the National Park Service if the agency is forced to absorb the enormous costs of Superstorm Sandy. We urge you to support the Frelinghuysen substitute amendment to the Sandy supplemental bill, which would support communities impacted by the storm and ensure funding sufficient to allow our national parks to recover, open for business, and better face future disasters. We also urge you to oppose any amendments that would weaken this level of funding for national parks.
Superstorm Sandy killed more than a hundred people, destroyed countless communities, homes and other buildings, and devastated families and businesses that will face hardship in recovering. Recent congressional funding of $9.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to carry out the National Flood Insurance Program will be instrumental in beginning to provide this relief. However, more comprehensive aid is needed. The storm’s damage extended to more than 70 National Park Service sites: some of our greatest national treasures, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor’s Island and Sandy Hook at Gateway National Recreation Area, were extensively damaged. The park service has never faced this level of damage in a single natural disaster, and the cost is so extensive that it dwarves even the deeply damaging sequester in scope. Extensive flooding, damaged mechanical equipment, docks and other infrastructure, and debris removal needs have been widespread. Numerous National Park Service sites and portions of sites were forced to close, and some remain closed indefinitely. In the aftermath of the Storm, almost 500 Park Services employees from 108 parks, 43 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia were deployed to help with the recovery effort, a major drain on an already compromised agency. Without federal assistance, we are deeply concerned that the Park Service resources needed to offset costly storm damage coupled with the possibility of more discretionary funding cuts through the deficit deal will be an insurmountable burden for the Park Service, and national parks throughout the United States will pay the price.
National Park Service sites in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are substantial contributors to local economies, reflecting an important portion of the more than $30 billion in spending each year and more than a quarter million jobs supported by national parks across the country. These areas are popular tourism destinations for Americans and international visitors alike, and the beaches, other natural areas and historical sites provide affordable vacation destinations for area residents and visitors alike.
The Frelinghuysen amendment includes critically needed funds: $398 million to rebuild our national parks, $360 million to better rebuild coastal habitat and infrastructure in national parks and wildlife refuges to better withstand storms and reduce future storm damage, and authorization of and funding for a comprehensive study on flood control to prevent future flood and storm damage. This support will not only provide shelter, power and other basic necessities to struggling coastal communities, but will also support the recovery of our beloved national parks in the region. Full and immediate funding will also allow park units to get the needed work done in time to reopen by the summer vacation season, which will provide a critical economic and morale boost for local communities impacted by the storm.
Thank you in advance for supporting our fellow Americans and national parks during this time of need.