Outdoor Recreation Has Never Been More Popular — and More in Need of Dedicated Funding

Photo courtesy Andrew Neel.

If this summer is anything like the last, more and more vacations will be spent touring national parks, camping in national forests, or visiting the other hundreds of millions of acres of U.S. recreation lands. While visits to public lands have been surging for a decade, much of the funding to maintain and improve them has been stagnant or declining.

The lack of attention shows in washed out trails and crumbling infrastructure across the country. Taken together, national parks and forests need $17 billion in repairs that have been postponed for lack of funding.

Politicians have proven either unable or unwilling to care for public lands adequately. But hikers and bikers, kayakers and campers, and recreationists of all stripes have the chance to fund a promising future for public lands by looking to themselves rather than Congress for solutions.

Last year, 28 national parks set visitation records. Ideally, that sort of popularity and appreciation for our parks would be channeled into better care of them. Instead, congressional funding to the National Park Service has hardly budged for at least a decade after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, the agency’s full-time workforce has been slashed by 8 percent over the past five years even as systemwide visitation surged 15 percent. It all adds up to having to do more—and serve more visitors—with less.

Read the entire piece in The Hill.

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