Bush 2008 budget proposal contains big bucks for national parks

With the National Park Service centennial looming in 2016, President Bush has proposed a 2008 budget boost that’s making park advocates swoon. It would add $230 million to the 2007 park funding request and $100 million more each year for 10 years, making an additional $100 million available annually to match private funds. The gesture, which could total a princely $3 billion, would allow parks to make desperately needed basic improvements. “We simply have lost contact people who meet the American public,” said one park superintendent. “What they’re not seeing are rangers in flat hats.” (Sadly, funding for flat hats was slashed, but we’re not gonna tell him.) Some fear the matching program is “an illusion,” and others are focusing on less-trumpeted budget goals like, oh, selling off $800 million of Forest Service lands. But the feds hope the park proposal “can be a source of healing for Americans,” says Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. “This one is not partisan. This one is American.”