Dear Director Reidenbach:
I write in response to your letter of March 31, 2010 in which you state the National Park Service's concern regarding the fiscal condition of the State of New York and the impact it is likely to have for the operation and maintenance of our parks and historic sites. Let me state from the outset that New York is not going to convert any parks or historic sites. We will maintain all areas as public outdoor recreation use in perpetuity.
New York, like all states, faces an historic fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude. It has demanded many difficult but necessary decisions to help ensure the fiscal integrity of our State. I have delayed school aid payments twice in the past six months and have delayed payments for other programs and services to keep New York from running out of money. The unfortunate reality of closing a $9 billion deficit is that there is less money available for many worthy services and programs. In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and social services, I trust that the National Park Service understands that no area of State spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions.
Given our challenging fiscal condition, I am pleased to know that your office is willing to work closely with us as we consider the necessary reductions in spending to be achieved by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Accordingly, I have asked Commissioner Carol Ash to meet with you and your staff to ensure that the spending reductions do not jeopardize our long-standing partnership or our eligibility to participate in and receiving funding under the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
I trust you will agree that this discussion should include how we can work together to ensure New York receives its fair share of LWCF funding. In the late 1970's New York was receiving $20 million annually from the LWCF. If funding remained at this level, New York would be receiving more than triple that in current dollars. Instead, we are receiving less than $2 million. Though it is authorized at $900 million annually, the LWCF has only received such an appropriation twice in its 45 year history. As you know, the program is divided into two distinct funding pots: State grants and Federal acquisition funds. Total appropriations in recent years have only been about a third of what the LWCF is authorized at. Further exacerbating the problem for states is the disparity between the state and federal shares of the fund. The federal share is increasing while the state share is decreasing. New York wants to partner with the National Park Service to reverse this trend and to sec! ure a commitment from Congress for a fully funded LWCF.
Thank you for contacting me to share the National Park Service perspective. I look forward to learning the fruits of your discussion with Commissioner Ash and her staff.
Very Truly Yours,