June 5, 2015
National Park Service: FY2015 and FY2016 Appropriations
The National Park Service (NPS) administers the National
Park System, which covers 84.5 million acres of land and
includes 407 diverse units valued for their natural, cultural,
and recreational importance. NPS receives appropriations in
annual appropriations laws for Interior, Environment, and
Figure 1. NPS Appropriations Accounts:
Share of Total FY2015 Appropriation
P.L. 113-235 provided NPS with a total of $2.615
billion in discretionary appropriations for FY2015.
For FY2015, P.L. 113-235 contained $2.615 billion in
discretionary appropriations for NPS. For FY2016, NPS has
requested $3.048 billion, an increase of $433.1 million
(16.6%) over the FY2015 appropriation. The agency has
stated that much of the increased funding would address its
growing backlog of deferred maintenance in connection
with NPS’s upcoming centennial anniversary in 2016.
Table 1. NPS Discretionary Appropriations by
($ in millions)
Operation of Nat’l. Park System
Enacted Request Change
Land Acq. & State Assistance
Nat’l. Recreation & Preservation
Historic Preservation Fund
Sources: P.L. 113-235, Division F; House Appropriations Committee
detailed tables for the National Park Service.
a. Totals reflect a rescission of Land and Water Conservation
Fund (LWCF) contract authority.
NPS’s Appropriations Accounts
NPS’s FY2015 appropriations were spread across six
accounts, as shown in Table 1. The largest appropriations
share—about 87%—went to the Operation of the National
Park System (ONPS) account (see Figure 1). This account
supports the activities, programs, and services that form the
day-to-day operations of the National Park System. The
majority of ONPS funding goes directly to individual park
units. Activities covered under the account include resource
stewardship, visitor services, park protection (including the
U.S. Park Police), facility operations and maintenance, park
support, and external administrative costs.
Source: P.L. 113-235.
Notes: The total appropriation includes a rescission of $28 million in
LWCF contract authority, not depicted in the chart.
NR&P = National Recreation and Preservation.
The next-largest amount, 5% of the total appropriation,
went to NPS’s Construction account. The account’s primary
activity, Line-Item Construction and Maintenance, covers
construction of new facilities and rehabilitation and
replacement of existing facilities. Projects are prioritized
based on their contribution to NPS “mission factors” and
cost-benefit considerations. The account also covers other
construction activities and planning functions, including
preparation of park general management plans and studies
that assess areas for potential addition to the system.
Some 4% of the total appropriation went to the Land
Acquisition and State Assistance (LASA) account. This
amount represents NPS’s share of appropriations from the
Land and Water Conservation Fund (16 U.S.C. §§460l-4 et
seq.), the primary funding source for several federal land
management agencies to acquire lands. NPS’s share of the
funding supports the agency’s acquisitions, primarily
consisting of “inholdings”—lands that are inside the
boundaries of national park units but are not federally
owned. It also supports NPS grants to states—and, through
them, to localities—for outdoor recreation needs. These
50/50 matching grants are primarily allocated to states by
formula. Of the $99.0 million total appropriated for the
account for FY2015, $50.8 million was for NPS acquisition
and $48.1 million was for state assistance.
The National Recreation and Preservation (NR&P) account
received about 2% of the total appropriation. This account
funds NPS programs that primarily assist state, local, tribal,
and private land managers with outdoor recreation
planning, natural and cultural resource preservation, and
other activities outside the National Park System. The
largest single program in the account is for NPS assistance
to national heritage areas ($20.3 million in FY2015).
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National Park Service: FY2015 and FY2016 Appropriations
Another 2% of the appropriation went to the Historic
Preservation Fund (HPF). Through this fund, established by
the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C.
§470), NPS provides grants to state, local, tribal, and
private entities to conserve cultural and historical assets and
sites. The grants are normally awarded on a 60% federal/
40% state cost-share basis, and they are administered by
state and tribal historic preservation offices.
Finally, less than 1% of the FY2015 appropriation went to a
Centennial Challenge account, consisting of a matchinggrant program to spur partner donations for park
improvements in anticipation of the National Park System’s
100th anniversary in 2016. This program also received
discretionary appropriations in FY2008 and FY2010. Both
the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations sought
additional mandatory appropriations of up to $100 million
for this fund, but Congress did not enact such legislation.
NPS again requested this mandatory funding for FY2016.
Issues in NPS Appropriations
NPS’s growing backlog of deferred maintenance continues
to be an issue as Congress considers appropriations for
FY2016. The Department of the Interior estimated the NPS
backlog for FY2014 at $9.31 billion to $13.70 billion, with
a mid-range figure of $11.50 billion. Despite agency efforts
to address the backlog through improved inventory and
asset management, it has continued to increase.
NPS funding to address deferred maintenance comes from
discretionary appropriations and from other sources. Two
appropriations subaccounts (one under Construction and the
other under ONPS) are partially used to address deferred
maintenance. Allocations to the agency from the Federal
Highway Administration are used for NPS road
construction and repair. Other sources, such as recreation
fee collections, may also be used.
Congress has considered whether to increase discretionary
funding for NPS deferred maintenance, whether to provide
mandatory funding outside the annual appropriations
process, and/or whether the agency needs to use existing
funding more efficiently. In the 113th Congress, in addition
to discretionary appropriations, P.L. 113-40 provided
mandatory funding from federal helium sales for NPS
deferred maintenance, totaling $50.0 million over two years
(FY2018-FY2019). Funded projects must have a nonfederal
cost share. The Administration’s FY2016 budget request
seeks other new mandatory funding, as well as increased
discretionary funding (see below), to address the NPS
backlog as the agency’s centennial anniversary nears.
For FY2015, P.L. 113-235 included $25.0 million in the
ONPS account and $10.0 million in the Centennial
Challenge account for activities related to the agency’s
2016 centennial. These activities include preparations for a
potentially high number of visitors during the centennial, as
well as broader efforts to address deferred maintenance and
improve park infrastructure and resource stewardship for
the agency’s “second century.” For FY2016, NPS requests
increases of $326.3 million in discretionary appropriations
and $500 million in mandatory funding for centennialrelated activities.
The 113th Congress discussed in Senate hearings, but did
not act on, other potential ways to address NPS funding in
connection with the centennial. Proposals focused on
funding sources to supplement discretionary appropriations,
such as an NPS endowment, increased fees, enhanced donor
partnerships, or other types of mandatory appropriations.
Land Acquisition Funding
The extent to which NPS land acquisition funding should
be increased, decreased, or redirected continues to be a
focus for appropriators. NPS’s land acquisition funding is
appropriated from the Land and Water Conservation Fund,
which is due to expire on September 30, 2015. At a broad
level, some in Congress object to further expansion of the
federal estate, whereas others feel that more areas need
federal protection. For NPS, some Members have suggested
that agency funding to acquire new lands is misplaced when
maintenance needs for the existing lands in the system are
not being met. Some also assert that certain recent
acquisitions have lacked the national value of many iconic
sites of the National Park System. Supporters of NPS land
acquisition funding have emphasized that the majority of
funds are used to acquire nonfederal inholdings within
existing park units, and they have contended that such
acquisitions help to “complete” valued parks and may even
facilitate maintenance efforts.
NPS Assistance to Nonfederal Sites
Both Congress and the Administration have questioned
whether some NPS assistance to nonfederal areas should be
reduced in light of agency budget constraints. Two agency
accounts (the NR&P and HPF accounts), along with a
portion of the LASA account, are used to fund NPS
assistance to nonfederal entities, although these accounts
combined represent less than 10% of the agency’s total
funding. In FY2016, as in previous years, the
Administration has proposed that NPS funding for national
heritage areas (which are nonfederally managed) should be
reduced by about half to focus funding on the agency’s core
mission of managing the federal parks. However, Congress
has not concurred with NPS requests for heritage area
funding reductions in recent years.
For More Information
For more information, see CRS Report R42757, National
Park Service: FY2016 Appropriations and Recent Trends;
CRS Report R43617, Interior, Environment, and Related
Agencies: FY2015 Appropriations; and CRS Report
R43997, Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land
Management Agencies: FY2005-FY2014 Estimates.
Laura B. Comay, email@example.com, 7-6036
www.crs.gov | 7-5700