Blog Post Kristen Brengel Oct 9, 2012

Putting National Parks into the Debate

National parks matter to an overwhelming majority of Americans. They should matter to our political candidates, too.

On Tuesday, October 16, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in their second debate before the presidential election. The “town hall” format of this debate will offer something new: the opportunity to send questions by Twitter and email to the candidates on issues you care about.

Staff members at NPCA are watching these debates closely to see where both candidates stand on issues affecting national parks. And yes, we have plenty of questions.

We have reason to be concerned, too. Both candidates have endorsed large cuts to federal spending. The National Park Service is only 1/14th of 1 percent of the federal budget and even a small cut could have a huge impact—and not just on the parks themselves. Communities around the country like Estes Park, Colorado; Port Angeles, Washington; Cleveland, Ohio; and many others rely on national parks for tourism.

Americans also love our national parks—on both sides of the aisle. Roughly 278 million people visit them each year—more than those who attend NFL football games (17 million), visit Disneyland (16 million), attend major league baseball games (73 million), and visit Apple retail stores (71 million) combined. These are not only important places for their beauty and their history; many people need national parks to remain open because their jobs and businesses depend on them.

Here are a few things we want to know.

NPCA’s suggestions for what to ask the candidates

  1. As you propose federal budget cuts in your campaign platforms, do you consider the enormous impact even a small cut can have on the National Park Service?
  2. Do you know that a small cut to the National Park Service could result in closing national parks all over the country? Have you considered what this could do to jobs and small businesses?
  3. The Park Service will celebrate its centennial in 2016. As president, what would you do to enhance our national parks for their second century?
  4. Multiple studies show that national parks create jobs, attract international tourists, and provide significant economic value to nearby communities. Do you agree public investment in our national parks is important to our national and local economies?
  5. National parks depend on adequate operational funds to stay open and staffed. Do you think the national parks should receive more appropriated operational funds, about the same as they receive now, or fewer appropriated operational funds?
  6. Do you support creating new national park units that tell American stories currently absent from our National Park System, such as  modern scientific advancement, women’s history, and Latino history?
  7. Do you support opening all national park units to hunting, including historical sites and other federally protected places not originally intended for this practice?
  8. A few politicians have suggested that selling public lands could solve our national debt problems. Would you sell national parks? If so, which ones?

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