National Parks Are Underfunded — Overhauling Fees Will Help

Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park.

Last week, a group of lawmakers joined Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to announce their plan to tackle the $11.6 billion list of repairs for national parks. The proposal would funnel roughly half of the receipts from new federal energy development to park maintenance.

While Congress should be applauded for focusing on the much-needed maintenance, the largely Republican-backed plan to tie energy revenues to parks isn’t a sustainable way to fund them into the future. Yet Democrats’ own solution to fund park maintenance, backed by park advocacy groups, is no more forward looking.

The maintenance backlog has ballooned so much thanks to the misaligned incentives politicians face. Cutting a ribbon on a new park is far more appealing than funding routine maintenance on sewer lines, dilapidated hiking trails, or leaky roofs. So it’s unsurprising that regardless of the political party in power, congressional appropriations for park maintenance have remained flat while the number of new parks has steadily increased over two decades.

The success and failure of our national treasures shouldn’t hinge on the whims of political funding decisions. It’s time to let the record number of visitors who have demonstrated — not just with words but also with their feet — that they cherish these wondrous places and will do their part to sustain them.

Read this entire piece at The Hill.

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