House Resources Panel Clears Pared-Down NPS Centennial Bill

On May 7, 2008, the House Natural Resources Committee cleared legislation (H.R. 3094) to authorize the National Park Service’s Centennial Initiative proposed last year by the Bush administration. However, the revised bill only authorizes $30 million a year in mandatory spending for the next ten years, far below the $100 million per-year the Administration had initially requested for the program.

The administration’s Centennial Initiative, announced in 2007, proposes $3 billion in new funds for the National Park Service over the next ten years in time for the Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016. $1 billion of that amount is the “Centennial Commitment”—$100 million in additional annual appropriations for each of the next ten years. The other $2 billion would come from the “Centennial Challenge” – the challenge to individuals, foundations, and businesses to contribute at least $100 million annually to support signature programs and projects. Each year, $100 million in donations would be matched by $100 million of Federal funding from the National Park Centennial Challenge Fund.

Both Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Subcommittee on Natural Parks, Forests and Public Lands Chairman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) expressed frustration with an inability to find the necessary offsets elsewhere in the federal budget to fund the program. The pared down version of the legislation was adopted to allow the bill to move forward while bi-partisan negotiations continued to find a solution to the budget conundrum. Key players in both parties in the House support the creation of the Centennial Fund and have agreed to craft a compromise that would pave the way for consideration of the bill by the House.

As reported by the Natural Resources Committee, repealing contract authority granted to the Secretary of the Interior under the Land and Water Conservation Fund would offset the $30 million authorized under the legislation. Rep. Grijalva’s original bill would have offset funding by imposing new commercial fees on public lands.

At the markup, the Committee rejected an amendment by Ranking Republican Don Young (R-AK) to fund the Initiative by allocating some of the income generated by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 12-18.

Congress included $25 million in the NPS Fiscal Year 2008 budget to begin the Initiative. However, the Administration proposed no funding for the Centennial Initiative in FY 2009, pending passage of authorizing legislation by Congress.

Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) introduced a Senate version of the authorization bill, but it has not yet seen action. Salazar’s bill (S. 2262) provides $100 million in mandatory spending -funded by a new conservation royalty from unanticipated offshore oil and gas revenues- for each of the fiscal years from 2008 to 2017.