The Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, of which U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander is a member, today approved record funding for the National Parks, including a minimum of $1.8 million boost for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“This begins a decade of historic increases to preserve and improve our national parks,” Alexander said. “Tennesseans love the great outdoors, and this means it will be possible for future generations to enjoy our scenic landscapes.”
The Fiscal Year 2008 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes an increase of $189 million to the National Parks budget. This is a 12 percent increase from fiscal year 2007 and is the largest single increase in the history of the National Parks. It includes significant funding for Tennessee parks, forests, and conservation programs.
“Enjoying beautiful open spaces is an important part of what makes Tennessee a great place to live and to visit,” Alexander said. “This bill invests in preserving our parks, forests, and heritage and recreation areas. From the mountains in East Tennessee to the Cumberland Plateau to the Mississippi River, this legislation supports important local efforts throughout the state.”
Funding for specific Tennessee initiatives includes:
$3.1 million for the Tennessee Mountains tracts, including Rocky Fork outside the Cherokee National Forest.
$1.5 million for the Chattanooga Air Tanker Base. This funding is used to support the Forest Service’s efforts through the National Fire Plan to construct a new modern tanker base.
$2.2 million for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park for land acquisition within the Park.
$1 million for the City of Harrogate to start construction on municipal sewer and wastewater treatment facility improvements.
$1 million for the preservation of the Big Forks Wildlife Management Area on the Walden Ridge portion of the Cumberland Plateau.
$300,000 for Johnson County’s Sutherland water line extension project. The extension will provide drinking water to more than 150 residents and support new residential growth.
$300,000 for Morgan County for the Gobey community water system improvement project. The project will provide drinking water to a large percentage of the county’s residents who are currently only served by well water.
$500,000 to support the Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee Regional Aquifer Study (MATRAS) through the U.S. Geological Survey.
$15 million for the Heritage Partnership Program which is an increase of $5 million above the Administration’s request. The Heritage Partnership Program funds heritage areas such as the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, which is a statewide partnership between the National Park Service and Middle Tennessee State University. It is the only statewide National Heritage Area, as well as the only National Heritage Area administered by a public university in the nation.
$7 million for the U.S. Forest Service International Program, an increase of $4.45 million over the Administration’s request, which supports a number of conservation programs at the Memphis Zoo.
Earlier this year, President Bush announced a 10-year plan, called the Centennial Challenge Initiative, designed to pour $3 billion into the parks. This bill fully funds the initiative for fiscal year 2008.
The legislation must now go to the full Appropriations Committee and then to the Senate for passage. This year Alexander was named to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
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