PERC and the National Parks

Our national parks are some of our most unique and prized landscapes. From the great houses in Chaco Culture to geysers in Yellowstone, slot canyons in Zion, and craggy peaks in Denali, these national parks provide a look across American time and place. We are charged with caring for these public treasures.

The National Park Service oversees 84 million acres across 417 sites. It has a pivotal task: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Effective management of our national parks is critical for achieving these conservation goals. But our parks need our help. The National Park Service faces an $11.6 billion backlog in deferred maintenance, an amount four times greater than its average budget. Additionally, parks are routinely setting visitation records, which is straining infrastructure and pressuring wildlife and vegetation.


PERC seeks to foster better management of our national parks by harnessing the power of entrepreneurship, markets, property rights, and cooperative partnerships. Our research explores reforms that could provide the National Park Service with greater freedom and flexibility to implement creative, cooperative solutions. Innovative funding mechanisms, such as retained user fees, also help ensure park managers have the financial ability to care for our precious resources.

Our national parks are the majesty of America. It’s time to look for creative conservation solutions to ensure they’re properly cared for now and for future generations.

Testimony Before Congress

Restoring Our National Parks: Statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on National Parks’ hearing on S. 3172, the Restore Our Parks Act, on July 11, 2018.

Deferred Maintenance and Operation Needs of the National Park Service: Statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ hearing to examine deferred maintenance and operation needs of the National Park Service on April 17, 2018.

Transforming the Department of the Interior for the Twenty-First Century: Statement before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on transforming the Department of the Interior for the 21st Century on December 7, 2017.

Identifying Innovative Infrastructure Ideas: Statement before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Federal Lands on identifying innovative infrastructure ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service on March 16, 2017.

Funding the National Park System for the Next Century: Statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on funding the National Park System for the next century on July 25, 2013.

Research Reports

Breaking the Backlog: 7 Ideas to Address the National Park Deferred Maintenance Problem: A collection of reform ideas that would enable parks to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on Congress for annual appropriations.

A New Landscape: 8 Ideas for the Interior Department: Eight policy ideas to deliver environmental and economic improvements for the nation’s lands, waters, and other natural resources.

PERC Reports: Back to the Future of Our National Parks: A magazine that explores several ways to reduce the National Park Service’s reliance on Congress, improve park maintenance and operations, and prepare our parks for the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Popular Press

During National Park Week, Remember that our Parks Need our Help (The Hill): With create approaches we can fill our parks’ financial hole and keep from digging a new one.

Fix the Parks We Already Have (Los Angeles Times): Dedicated funding to the deferred maintenance in the National Park Service is a step in the right direction.

We Will Better Protect National Parks for Just Pennies More Per Visit (The Hill): For the price of an ice cream cone at Yellostone’s Canyon Lodge we will collectively be investing millions in the future of our beloved national parks.

Happy 100th Birthday, National Parks (Wall Street Journal): As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial, Americans should ask how they can ensure the health of their national treasure for many generations to come.

Allow Popular National Parks to Charge for Attendance (New York Times Room for Debate): The national parks are often celebrated as America’s best idea, but we are loving the idea to death. Allowing parks to charge higher entrance fees to cover the full cost of operations and maintenance can help.

National Parks: Lost in the Wilds of Neglect (Wall Street Journal): The National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog is nearly $12 billion—and it shows. Here are some ideas on how to start afresh.

Let’s Fix Our National Parks, Not Add More (New York Times): True conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have, not insatiably acquiring more and hoping it manages itself.