PRESIDENT\'S FY09 BUDGET PROPOSES DEVASTATING AND POTENTIALLY FATAL CUTS TO NATIONAL ARBORETUM\'S PUBLIC PROGRAMS The President\'s FY09 budget proposes a cut of $2 million from the National Arboretum, to be taken specifically from the Gardens Unit and the Education and Visitors Services Unit, the two programs at the Arboretum that reach out to and serve the general public. The base budget for those two units is just under $5 million. Of that amount, almost $2 million represents overhead such as security, maintenance, utilities, a percentage of staffing at the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) operations in Beltsville, etc. The remainder, approximately $3 million, is dedicated to the direct services of the Gardens Unit and Education and Visitors Services Unit. Therefore, a $2 million cut would represent a drastic cut in the direct services of these two programs, likely resulting in a crippling and possibly fatal loss of staff and services. The ostensible reason for such cuts is that the Agriculture Research Service, which operates the National Arboretum, plans to limit its focus on its research function. This rationale ignores the Congressional mandate under which the National Arboretum was created. The legislation establishing the National Arboretum designates two priority purposes for the Arboretum: research and education. A budget cut of this magnitude will have very dire consequences for the world renowned Gardens and Plant Collections on the 446 acres of the National Arboretum. Such consequences most likely would have to include deep and massive staff layoffs, abandonment or extreme neglect of many of the plant collections and garden displays, and even, possibly, a failure to maintain the original national Capitol Columns which were relocated to the grounds of the National Arboretum and represent a vital part of American history. For the Education and Visitors Services Unit, there would also likely be deep and massive staff cuts, a possible closure of portions of the Arboretum including potentially part or all of the world-class National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, a significant cutback in public access and hours, and the elimination or significant curtailment of many of the public outreach activities of the Arboretum such as tours, classes, etc. The National Arboretum is an oasis and jewel within our nation\'s capital. Its 446 acres provide a much needed contemplative greenspace in this urban environment, a place to highlight and exhibit the results of ARS research activities, an educational tool to help the public connect with their natural environment and to understand the origin of vital foods, medicines and fuel sources. In short, it is an important destination for millions of international, national and regional visitors. Congress needs to reject this short-sighted and harmful budget proposal and maintain this national treasure by restoring the proposed $2 million reduction for the National Arboretum. If you would like additional information, contact Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) at 202-544-8733.
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