Study: National Parks In Jeopardy Without Major Infusion Of Funds

About 280 million people visit national parks each year.
July 01, 2011

Four and a half million people are expected to visit national parks this weekend. The Fourth of July is, in fact, the most popular weekend of the year.

But conservation groups are worried about the current state of the country’s protected parks, beaches and landmarks. So they are asking the federal government to invest more to protect them.

The National Park Conservation Association just released a 10-year analysis of the parks using government data. The independent advocacy group lists threats to several parks, including air and water pollution, disappearing wildlife and invasive species.

“What I know from my work with the parks is how profoundly underfunded and understaffed they are,” said David Nimkin, the group’s southwest regional director.

The numbers bear that out -- 400 national parks with 84 million acres are managed by a mere 20,000 employees. And 280 million people visit each year.

President Obama has proposed a $140 million increase over last year’s budget of $3 billion. The association said the parks need at least four times that amount.

National Park Service chief spokesman David Barna said the parks did receive about $1 billion dollars of stimulus funding, but that went to repair park roads and to fix visitor centers.

“And inflation eats away at you and so you tend to have this shortfall that accumulates over the years,” Barna said.

The national parks celebrate their centennial in 2016. And conservationists argue their status as a national showcase is jeopardized without a major funding increase.