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Don't forget about our national parks

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - Updated: 4:09 AM

Family-friendly wonders of the world don't come cheap.

Our national parks are suffering from the meat-ax budget cuts of sequestration after years of deferred maintenance. That's no way to treat America's best idea.

Our great-grandparents' enthusiasm for preserving some of this nation's wow places produced an amazing legacy. We have a duty to preserve that legacy for our children's children.

A report released last month by the House Natural Resources Committee shows parks are being forced to cut hours and services, reduce access to campgrounds and facilities and further delay maintenance.

This isn't just about the aesthetics or the comfort of visitors.

At the Grand Canyon, seasonal staffing has been reduced, bathrooms are cleaned less frequently, the visitor center closes earlier and there are fewer ranger-led activities for visitors.

A report from the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility found an increase in assaults and threats against rangers and park police. This is no time to cut staffing.

The sequestration cuts come as parks face a $12 billion maintenance backlog, the House report said. The unfunded to-do list includes repairing or replacing deteriorated roads, bridges and trails, as well as upkeep on facilities and historical sites.

Public support for the parks remains high. Four of every five of those polled for the National Parks and Conservation Association said they worry about budget cuts degrading the parks and the visitor experience.

The zeal for budget-cutting needs to be balanced with the reality that many things Americans take for granted cost money. Well-run, well-maintained national parks are among those national values.

America's best idea deserves the proper funding.

-- Arizona Republic

     

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