From the AP:
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne came to the country’s most-visited national park — the Great Smoky Mountains — today to promote a Bush administration plan to give the national park system a $3 billion gift for its 100th birthday in 2016.
“The president has been very clear that he would like to use these 10 years as the time of preparation” for special projects tied to the centennial, Kempthorne said. The goal is to have “actual projects on the ground, new programs that have been implemented that are in place” by 2016, the former Idaho governor said.
Officials plan 17 public listening sessions through the end of the month to talk about how to use the money. A Denver listening session is scheduled March 21.
The administration proposes a $258 million increase in national parks’ funding in fiscal 2008 to $2.4 billion. Beyond that, the plan offers an additional $100 million for operations, including restoring some 3,000 seasonal park rangers, and $100 million in new federal money to match $100 million in new private giving for special centennial projects each year through 2016.
Public listening sessions (give your friends and family a heads-up):
March 13 — Gatlinburg, Tenn.
March 14 — Anchorage, Alaska
March 15 — St. Louis and Boston
March 20 — San Antonio, Texas; New York City and Seattle
March 21 — Denver and San Juan, Puerto Rico
March 22 — San Francisco and Miami
March 26 — Cleveland
March 27 — Albuquerque, N.M., Atlanta, Ga., and Kailua-Kona,Hawaii
March 28 — Washington, D.C.
March 29 — Los Angeles