TVA/LBL management have insisted that the current crisis at Land Between the Lakes is purely economic. Because of budget constraints, we have been told they have been forced to close the educational and scenic facilities, which were very popular but made no money, in order to focus on the construction of money making operations like giftshops, groceries and restaurants.
What follows are facts, figures, and proposals for how, under a more responsive management, the original mission of the LBL could be maintained, the commercial enterprises removed, and with LESS NOT MORE money spent to do it.
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One of the remaining mysteries of the saga of LBL's five preliminary concepts is tha actual amount of LBL's annual budget. We are all quite familiar with the gimmick of reporting a small version of a budget if we wish to appear underfunded. The alternative is also well-known; namely using the largest possible figure for the annual budget when the objective is to make some component of that budget--for example, salaries--appear small. The same salaries which are a mere 53% of a $12,500,000 budget, are, in fact, more than 100% of the entire $6,600,000 (actual appropriation) budget. You can readily understand why LBL's reports have not improved the reputation of creative accounting. If we actually strive to improve LBL's image by using LBL's smallest budget figure, i.e., the actual dollars appropriated by congress, and their figure for the LBL acreage; we (and our solar calculator) arrive at an appropriation equal to $39 per acre per year.
Having heard (via video tape--August, 1994) a high ranking TVA official tell the assembled staff that LBL could be managed, in the style of a National Park, for approximately $4,000,000 per year, we decided to explore the matter further. Fortuitously, the May-June (1996) issue of AUDUBON magazine featured an article by Ted Williams, which supplied some relevant data. Specifically, he offered the type of gross comparison which we were seeking, and provided the following figures relating to the average federal appropriation per acre per year for three federal land management agencies:
Before proceeding, it seems appropriate to emphasize that such comparisons are far from perfect ones. Each of the agencies involved has some unique features, else there would be little reason to retain them as separate agencies. Likewise, within the agencies, there are widely diverse administrative units. Some are burdened by high costs of security; some are not. Some have "off-seasons"; some do not. Some have millions of visitors; some do not. In the aggregate, we submit that, because LBL does not pay for the police/security function ($900,000/year) from its appropriation; does not fund significant amounts of research; and supplements its appropriation by $700,000 per year in timber and bison sales; the comparison is probably unfair to LBL's sister agencies--not to LBL. In any event, we are making a gross comparison and each reader will have to determine how useful and/or fair it seems to be. Those precautions behind us, we offer the following comparisons:
The annual federal appropriation per acre for LBL is 19.5 times as large as that of the Fish and Wildlife Service; 5.6 times as large as that of the U.S. Forest Service and 3.0 times that of the National Park Service. Saying this another way, the LBL appropriation per acre is 77% larger than the combined per acre appropriations of the USFS, plus the USFWS plus the National Park Service. Recall, these calculations are based on LBL's so-called small budget figure (annual appropriation); not the $12 plus million actually spent by LBL. We fi;n;d it mind boggling to hear from the LBL administration that they lead the way in cost recovery among federal land management agencies. We also were somewhat incredulous when Mr. Kennoy, a member of the TVA Board of Directors, recently informed us that selling $24 T-shirts and $700,000 of standing timber are not commercial activities because, over-all, LBL/TVA does not show a profit. We agree that neither LBL nor TVA seems to have the business acument necessary to make a profit (a $28 billion debt precludes further debate); but we wonder how that justifies their squandering the public's dollars, the public's natural resources and the public's trust. Perhaps part of LBL's problem is having too much money--and too much mission leap.
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A summary of the potential managing agencies with a list of advantages and disadvantages of each.
Please check back for more info--and let us know what YOU think!
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