Don't Add More National Parks, Just Fix Them
July 14, 2015
Throughout the national park system, an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance is eroding the visitor experience and threatening the very resources the National Park Service was created to protect. Earlier this year, the park service announced the cost of deferred maintenance had reached $11.5 billion.
Despite this, in December President Obama effectively spread the maintenance budget even thinner by adding seven new parks to the park system. Rather than using conservation funds to acquire more land, Congress should use the money to help address the deferred maintenance backlog.
The National Park Service estimated that it would need to spend $700 million annually just to prevent deferred maintenance from rising above the current $11.5 billion backlog. Congress should expand the authority of federal land agencies to charge user fees and allow the revenue to be used at the park, refuge, monument or forest that collected it.
User fees are based on the idea that those who use a resource should bear the cost of maintaining it. Fees, not taxes, are a more equitable means of financing maintenance.
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which lets agencies collect user fees and retain at least 80 percent of the revenue at the collection location, is set to expire next year. Reauthorizing it is imperative, but it should be amended to allow 100 percent of the user fee to be retained on site.
Federal land managers know what is required to maintain their lands, as well as what visitors are willing to pay. These reforms would allow managers to charge fees that facilitate conservation without discouraging visitation.
Source: Reed Watson and Scott Wilson, "Let's Fix Our National Parks, Not Add More," Property and Environmental Research Center, June 30, 2015.
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