Diverting this money will dig our parks into an even bigger financial hole.
Background: The Trump administration has announced that it will reopen areas of the National Park System closed due to the partial federal government shutdown using money collected from visitor fees.
National parks were expected to collect an estimated $310 million this year, though fees will be less than predicted because of the loss of fee collection during the government shutdown, now totaling more than $6 million. National parks that collect fees keep on average 80% of the money they collect, while the remaining 20% of funds are available for projects for which parks can compete.
National park fees can be used for maintenance projects, visitor services, wildlife habitat projects, law enforcement, and recreation projects – projects intended to repair parks and otherwise enhance the visiting experience.
According to the last National Park Service estimate, its deferred maintenance backlog totals $11.6 billion. In the last Congress, bipartisan legislation in both the House and Senate would have put significant funding toward these repair needs. Despite receiving a combined 269 cosponsors and widespread support, including from National Parks Conservation Association, it didn’t pass Congress by the end of last year.
- On an average day, national parks are expected to collect $400,000 in fee revenue. Since the start of the shutdown, NPCA estimates that the park service has lost more than $6 million in fee revenue.
- The National Park Service has been operating with an estimated 11% fewer staff while at the same time struggling to accommodate a 19% increase in visitation (between Fiscal Years 2011 and 2017).
- The National Park Service has been operating with a $2.7 billion annual budget.
Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association
“Instead of working to reopen the federal government, the administration is robbing money collected from entrance fees to operate our national parks during this shutdown. It’s incredibly concerning that the Acting Interior Secretary is putting political pressure on Superintendents to keep parks open at the expense of parks’ long-term needs and protection. For those parks that don’t collect fees, they will now be in the position of competing for the same inadequate pot of money to protect their resources and visitors. Draining accounts dry is not the answer.
"National parks were already struggling before this government shutdown, operating with fewer staff and smaller budgets to sustain our parks. Rather than giving parks the funding they need, the president proposed slashing the parks’ budget, which would have cut thousands of ranger positions. Now he wants to pilfer from entrance fees, depleting these badly needed resources to the point of wiping them out entirely.
"National parks were expected to collect $310 million in fees in 2018. While this amount is less than 13% of the agency’s annual operating funds from Congress, the money goes a long way in many parks. Diverting this money will dig our parks into an even bigger financial hole. This will hurt rangers, parks, visitors and the tourism economy long after the shutdown is over.
"Instead of robbing from park funds, the president needs to work with Congress to fully reopen the federal government, including our national parks. And he should propose budgets that will authentically help operate parks and address their maintenance needs in the long-term. Budget antics are not the way to fund our 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 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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