Record visitation pumps billions into national, local economies in 2016.
WASHINGTON – National park visitation generated $34.9 billion for the U.S. economy in 2016, a $2.9 billion increase from 2015, and supported 318,000 jobs, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today. The number reflects the significant, positive economic impact national park visitors have on gateway communities, including sales, lodging and jobs, as well as the impact on the national economy as a whole.
The 2016 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report is available here.
Below is a statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association:
“Today’s report demonstrates once again that our national parks not only protect and preserve many of America’s landscapes and historic sites, they are also powerful economic engines for our country. It is good that the Trump Administration appreciates the enormous impact national parks have on our economy, and we hope this report will encourage it to boost funding for the National Park Service rather than cut it.
“A record-breaking 331 million visitors came to parks like the Grand Canyon and Gettysburg in 2016 as the Park Service celebrated its centennial. Sadly, while parks are more popular than ever, they are facing many challenges, including a $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, reduced staffing that has made it harder for parks to handle record-breaking crowds and reductions in visitor services and interpretive programs essential to the park visitor experience.
“These challenges require more money, not less, but the administration is proposing deep cuts to the Interior Department budget that, if enacted, could do lasting damage to our national parks and the local economies they support. In addition, the administration has provided guidance to federal agencies, including the Park Service, to reduce their workforce even further. If we don’t invest in our national parks, we not only jeopardize the future of these places, but also the economic future of their gateway communities.
“Just last month, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan National Park Service Legacy Act (S. 751), which dedicates funding to tackle the Park Service repair backlog over the next 30 years. This is the kind of robust and realistic solution needed to ensure our parks are restored and ready for the next century of visitors, but we can’t stop there.
“Congress and the President need to work together to make sure agencies charged with protecting some of America’s greatest resources, from the National Park Service to the Environmental Protection Agency, have the funding they need to carry out their mission and maintain our parks well into the future.”
Background: National parks continue to be major economic drivers for local communities and the nation. For every dollar Congress invests in the National Park Service, more than $10 is returned to the American economy. Much of that money directly benefits parks’ gateway communities as visitors stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and buy goods and services from local businesses.
Despite this extraordinary return on investment and record popularity, the agency’s funding is far from adequate. In fact, national parks face a $12 billion repair backlog, yet the Park Service gets only 60 cents for every $1 it needs just to keep the backlog from growing. Additionally, there are not enough rangers and park staff to manage the record-breaking crowds, with the number of Park Service staff declining more than 10 percent since 2010.
The new report comes as the Trump Administration is proposing serious cuts to the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that, if enacted, could jeopardize the protection, maintenance and operation of national parks across the country.
The budget blueprint proposes a 12 percent cut to Interior and a 31 percent cut to EPA. While the Interior proposal includes an increase in funding for park maintenance, it cuts Interior construction programs. It also includes deep cuts to land acquisition and historic preservation programs that are essential to national parks.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.2 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.