Senate's Budget Would Impact Parks and Forests
Our enjoyment of the 117 State Parks and 2.1 million acres of State Forests are in trouble. The Senate's budget plan (Senate Bill 850) reduces DCNR's budget by about $19 million MORE than the Governor's proposal, which could force DCNR to close between 35-50 state parks and close over 1,000 miles of State Forestry roads, as well as close Penn Nursery and reduce gypsy moth spraying. These closures would affect millions of hunters, hikers, anglers, tourists, campers and would also impact rural communities, where many of these parks are located. Read the DCNR press release at: DCNR press release
While we understand that in these tough economic times we all need to tighten our belts, a disproportionate cut appears to be made from the DCNR budget. The Senates proposal cuts the state park budget by 14% and the state forest budget by 30.5% (17% reduction to DCNR overall). Both state parks and state forests have cut costs already to accommodate the economic downturn-reduced maintenance, limited purchasing, reduction in travel and training. The next step, should the Senate Bill pass, would be closure and reduction in programs. What appears to be missing is consideration of the economic BENEFIT state parks and forests bring to Pennsylvania. Tourism is Pennsylvania's second leading industry, with nature tourism a significant portion of that. Twenty percent of overnight stays in state parks are from non-residents; i.e. new money into the economy. DCNR Acting Secretary John Quigley was quoted as stating "closing 35 state parks would turn away more than 3 million visitors and wipe out at least $57 million in visitor spending on products and services in nearby communities." This $57 million loss to save $19 million in appropriated money is a conservative estimate utilizing a formula that is known as the Virginia model. Other models indicate the loss could be over $100 million in spending on products and services. That is a significant loss of revenue to the businesses and rural communities surrounding state parks and state forests.
Also overlooked in the Senate Bill are the tertiary benefits of state parks and forests-an active ranger/policing force for rural Pennsylvania; the loss of entrepreneurial opportunities for small businesses near parks and forests; the benefits of trees for carbon sequestration and clean water; recreation; jobs; advice to forest landowners; and the benefits that we, as user, derive, such as health and fitness, mental health, stress reduction, family time, and a free-to-low cost means of recreation. The $19 million cut planned by the Senate Appropriations Committee would affect other DCNR programs, as well.
If you feel strongly about these issues, contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee: Jake Corman, Robert Tomlinson, Mike Stack, Dom Pileggi, Robert Mellow, Joe Scarnatti, David Argall, Lisa Baker, Mike Brubaker, John Gordner, Stewart Greenleaf, John Pippy, John Rafferty, Lloyd Smucker, Pat Vance, Michael Waugh, Mary Jo White, Lisa Boscola, Larry Farnese, Barry Stout, Christine Tartaglione and John Wozniak. Contact your Senator even if he or she is not on the Appropriations committee and let him or her know that you support an equitable review off all state programs and that state parks and state forests provide many benefits for the citizens of Pennsylvania and are critical for the economic well being of the state, thereby deserving of adequate funding. Contact your state representative, as well, as Senate Bill 850 must go to the house for consideration. Contact information for your elected official may be found at Contact PA Legislators
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!