national park service director chuck sams
(Photo/Mark Van Scyoc)

Biden Channels $10 Billion to Parks, Wildland Firefighting, and More

The Biden-Harris administration presented the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget to Congress on Monday. It includes substantial national park and conservation funding, with increases across the board.

President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget allots $10 billion in funding to support a wide array of conservation initiatives. Top actionable items on the list include $4.9 billion for increased land and water conservation, $3.6 billion for the National Park Service (NPS), and $1.5 billion for the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Wildland Fire Management program.

The proposed budget reflects increases in each amount from the fiscal year 2022 numbers and seeks to address two key issues it identifies: climate challenges and increasing parks visitation.

DOI Funding Details

The proposal outlines an $18.1 billion budget for the DOI, up 19% from 2022’s allocation. This year’s proposal identifies “worsening drought, increased weather risks, more extreme wildfires, profound threats to wildlife and habitats, warming water temperatures, and new threats from invasive species” as priority challenges, the DOI said in a statement.

Of this, $4.9 billion will support healthier lands, waters, and ecosystems the department manages. Another goal the administration outlined for the funding block is to broaden support for local conservation efforts through partnership and grant programs.

Its overarching goal is to meet the America the Beautiful initiative’s goal to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The objective, the DOI says, is to address the planet’s changing climate and impacts on nature.

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Also, $1.5 billion in funding for the department’s Wildland Fire Management program represents a $237 million increase from 2022. It arrives as Brian Oliver, chief of Colorado’s Wildland Fire Division, called the state’s fire season “year-round” after a significant blaze broke out near Boulder this weekend.

Other significant blocks of DOI funding support invasive species management and the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) programs, which support community-based drought mitigation and water management program. Resources for conservation on Tribal lands are also on the table.

“President Biden has proposed an important blueprint for our country’s future that reflects the importance of science, equity and collaboration in carrying out Interior’s important missions,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

“These resources, coupled with the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help the Department make critical investments in climate resiliency while creating good-paying union jobs in the clean energy economy, ensuring Tribal communities have the resources and support they need and conserving and protecting wildlife and their habitats for future generations.”

NPS Funding Details

The NPS’ $3.6 billion 2023 budget is up $492.2 million from 2022. It aims to support equity and inclusion, climate science and resiliency, and beckoning infrastructure needs. Bandwidth improvements and deferred maintenance have become growing concerns, especially at high-traffic parks like Yosemite.

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In a statement, the NPS said that “[i]ncreasing or restoring park capacity is consistent across these initiatives.”

The NPS maintains 423 national parks, 23 national scenic and historic trails, and 64 wild and scenic rivers. Surging visitor numbers across the network totaled 300 million last year, generating a massive economic infusion for nearby communities. The NPS estimated that parks near communities generated $28.6 billion in total economic output ahead of the new budget.

Historical monuments constitute many of the newest additions to the National Park System. The department’s 2023 budget requests new funds to support its operations. Examples include the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, which seeks to preserve the civil rights icons’ story.

The diversity, equity, and inclusion funding totals $48 million.

Far more money, though, will fund construction, operational capacity, and conservation improvements in parks.

The plan includes a massive $959 million for Facility Operations and Maintenance across the NPS, including $136 million for repair and rehabilitation projects and $188.2 million for cyclic maintenance projects.

yosemite closed sign
“Road Closed” near Yosemite, which has the NPS’ most extensive deferred maintenance backlog; (photo/Tallula, Shutterstock)

Elsewhere, $57 million will go to increasing visitor capacity and managing natural resources accordingly. And $29.6 million will help complete projects like wildlife migration corridors, wildland fire fuels management, and response to natural resource threats.

“The 2023 budget demonstrates a commitment from the Biden-Harris Administration to address critical issues of our time,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams.

“The National Park Service plays an important role in connecting Americans to our interwoven history, culture, and environment. This funding is essential to help us continue to improve vital infrastructure, increase equity and inclusion, and tackle the climate crisis.”

Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.