Siphoning off desperately needed money from our national parks to pay for a spectacle on our National Mall is both reckless and a breach of the public’s trust.
Background: As reported by the Washington Post, the administration is diverting nearly $2.5 million in national park fee revenue to pay for President Trump’s Independence Day spectacle on the National Mall. The money, collected from park visitor fees, is a significant funding source for national park maintenance and service projects. The loss of desperately needed money, siphoned off to pay for a costly rally, comes at a time when parks are already facing a financial shortfall and influx of visitors.
National park fees are collected for maintenance projects, visitor services, wildlife habitat projects, law enforcement and recreation projects – projects intended to repair parks and otherwise enhance the visitor experience. National parks were expected to collect an estimated $310 million this year, though fees will be less than predicted because of the loss of more than $14 million that went uncollected during the government shutdown.
In addition to losing millions of fee dollars during the longest shutdown in our nation’s history, national parks are also facing a deferred maintenance backlog totaling nearly $12 billion, and an additional $480 million in budget cuts by this administration.
This is the second time this year Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has diverted national park visitor fees for something other than their intended purpose. The first time was during the partial government shutdown earlier this year, when the administration used fee money to keep some national parks open, leaving them open to irreparable harm.
Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:
“Siphoning off desperately needed money from our national parks to pay for a spectacle on our National Mall is both reckless and a breach of the public’s trust.
“It was just a few months ago that this administration chose to rob entrance fee money to illegally operate our national parks during the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Our national parks paid the price, including lost fee revenue and irreparable damage.
“And now we’re dealing with another attempt by the administration to raid this money, which will dig our parks into an even bigger financial hole. Two and a half million dollars might not seem like a lot to this administration, but to a national park it’s everything. Fee dollars are meant to protect our parks irreplaceable resources and enhance visitors’ experiences, not fund Presidential stunt.
“The Park Service is already operating on a shoestring budget, and park staff have come to heavily rely on visitor fee dollars to fund law enforcement personnel, create educational programs for visitors, and address the nearly $12 billion in needed repairs for crumbling park buildings, trails and roads.
“With just a few hours until the event, we still have many unanswered questions about this misuse of taxpayer dollars. Independence Day on the National Mall has always been a place to celebrate patriotism and what it means to be an American. The administration is marring that tradition with its actions, and the repercussions will be felt for a long time to come.”
About National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, 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/100.