Make Our National Parks Self-Sufficient

Loved as they are, however, our national parks and monuments are not being well treated—and adding more to the inventory will only make matters worse. Each year the NPS begs Congress for more funding, but operating budgets always fall short of requests. Between 2005 and 2015, the federal budget grew by 39 percent as the NPS operating budget grew by only 1.7 percent. Meanwhile park visitation increased to a record 305 million in 2015.

An even bigger problem is the $12 billion maintenance backlog. In other words even when Congress appropriates money for operations, the infrastructure—including crumbling roads, leaking sewers, and deteriorating buildings, some of which are historical sites—continues to deteriorate.

The 100th anniversary of the NPS is a good time to rethink how we manage and fund our national parks. Considering the history of why national parks were created and how they were operated, we can give the NPS an anniversary gift by going “back to the future” to make parks more self-sufficient.

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