U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today praised the $1.5 million increase in funding for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and championed future efforts to “help our national parks plan ahead so future generations can appreciate and protect them.”
“Remarkably, this $1.5 million increase is the largest in the history of the Smokies, America’s most visited national park,” said Alexander, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “These funds will go a long way in supporting park upkeep, revamping volunteer training and increasing pay for rangers and seasonal staff. As the 100th anniversary of the National Park System nears, we need to keep looking for other big ideas – like the president’s Centennial Challenge – that will aid efforts in preserving and celebrating the Great American Outdoors.”
The $1.5 million increase was signed into law by the president as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008 and brings the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s annual budget to $18.7 million dollars, helping the Smokies with the cost of pay raises, increases in fuel and utilities, the expansion of the park’s volunteer program, and hiring 55 seasonal employees.
In addition, the bill provides $2 billion for all National Park Service operations – up from $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2007 – and includes funding for a new matching grant program under the president’s Centennial Challenge initiative for which the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be eligible to compete. The Centennial Challenge calls for $100 million per year to be made available to parks and aims to generate non-federal money to match it dollar-for-dollar.