What does “America the Beautiful” mean to us on this day, July 4? What patriotic images and beautiful symbols of our country does it conjure?
For the Trump administration, apparently not the amber waves of grain, nor the purple mountains’ majesties, the Washington Post reports.
Today, $2.5 million in funds diverted from the National Park Service — originally intended for maintenance and repair of our country’s public lands — will instead be spent on an extravagant military display consisting of jets, helicopters, bombers, and tanks.
“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth,” tweeted Trump on July 3.
“It shows tremendous disrespect, which has been continual with this administration, to our National Parks,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association.
“The Park Service is already operating on a shoestring budget, and park staff have come to heavily rely on visitor fee dollars to fund law enforcement personnel, create educational programs for visitors, and address the nearly $12 billion in needed repairs for crumbling park buildings, trails and roads,” she said in a statement.
For the 419 National Park sites countrywide, even an extra $10,000 would be a boon. Wildlife departments could upgrade tech, interpreters could invest in more effective visual aides and programs, law enforcement could afford more safety equipment and training, not to mention maintenance.
This move comes after years of continual budget cuts to the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service under the Trump administration. 2020’s budget proposal includes a plan to cut over 400 full-time staff.