Increase Federal Funding for National Parks
America’s national parks had 331 million recreation visits in 2016 – a third consecutive all-time attendance record for the National Park Service. Park visitors spent an estimated $16.9 billion in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands across the country. Each federal dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 in economic activity, a tremendous return on investment to local economies.
President Trump’s budget request would cut the Department of Interior by 12%. This would have devastating effects on the NPS and programs that support healthy fish and wildlife, public access to the outdoors, rural economies, and our nation’s rich heritage. Congress should increase funding to operate and maintain the places that deeply inspire American families, provide healthy recreational opportunities, support local economies and protect America’s natural and cultural treasures.
➤ Tell your representative to support increased funding for the National Park Service and appropriate funds that support the National Park Service Centennial Challenge.
Improve Public Lands Infrastructure
A long-term underinvestment by Congress in public lands has led to a $13 billion repair backlog, including crumbling roads and bridges, run-down trails, and rotting historic buildings. Voyageurs National Park alone has over $16.4 million in backlog which includes projects that would improve visitor safety and save historic structures.
The backlog is a result of aging infrastructure, increased wear and tear from visitation and congressional underfunding. In addition, federal lands do not have the benefit of local or state taxes to fund infrastructure projects.
➤ Tell Congress to commit to robust annual and dedicated funding to restore National Park infrastructure whether as part of the national infrastructure investment or as a standalone issue.
Permanently Reauthorize and Fully Fund the Land & Water Conservation Fund
Minnesota has received approximately $240.8 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the Saint Croix National Scenic River. LWCF is crucial to VNPA’s Land Preservation Initiative.
The president’s budget framework released on March 15th guts funding for conservation at our National Parks. The future of our outdoor access depends on investment from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. LWCF is overwhelmingly popular with the American people and has maintained broad bipartisan support over its half century history of successful, locally-driven conservation. Read more about why LWCF matters to you.
➤ Tell Congress to oppose the president’s budget cuts to conservation and support the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Support Environmental Review and Longterm Protections from Sulfide-Ore Copper Mining in Voyageurs’ Watershed
Recently, the U.S. Forest Service announced a two-year pause on mining activities in approximately 234,000 acres of the Superior National Forest, a vital portion of the Rainy River Watershed, which flows into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park. The announcement starts a comment period on the Forest Service’s application for withdrawal of these lands and minerals from the federal leasing program. This period will help determine the scope for the two-year science-based environmental study of the region’s unique water-based ecosystem. The environmental review will guide the decision by the Secretary of the Department of Interior on whether to approve the U.S. Forest Service’s application for a 20-year withdrawal.
Read more on how sulfide mine development in the Rainy River Watershed as far away as 100 miles will flow into Voyageurs impacting its waters and wildlife. A two-year environmental review of the proposed withdrawal is essential to allow federal agencies and the public to examine science to determine whether copper-nickel mining should be allowed in this watershed.
➤ Submit your comment to the Forest Service during this critical watershed environmental review by August 17, 2017 (you can use these comments as a template). Comments may be addressed to Connie Cummins, Forest Supervisor, Superior National Forest, 8901 Grand Avenue Place, Duluth, MN 55808-1122, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via fax to 218-626-4398.
Staff our National Parks
Several recent actions have imperiled the Park Service and undercut its mandate to protect our nation’s most spectacular places. A freeze on federal staff hiring will hinder efforts to protect and patrol our national parks and provide visitor experiences. Voyageurs National Park has several positions they are unable to fill.
➤ Let your representatives know that you support an exception to the freeze for National Parks.
Protect Environmental Review and the Environmental Quality Board
A bill recently introduced at the Minnesota Legislature aims to make dramatic rollbacks to Minnesota’s environmental review and permitting processes, while eliminating the Environmental Quality Board. (HF 1291 and SF 1087). The Minnesota EQB is an important avenue for citizens and agencies to conduct fair and complete environmental reviews of projects in the state. The EQB’s ability to coordinate with multiple agencies makes it a critical protector of our air, land, and water. Polling has shown that Minnesotans value the EQB and other important regulating authorities: 62% believe that environmental protections should be toughened or better enforced, not weakened.
➤ Take Action: Tell your legislators and the Governor to say ‘no’ to HF 1291 / SF 1087!