Sparta Report

How we pay for our National Parks

Maintenance Backlog

How do we pay for our National Parks? In part, through offshore oil.

When President Obama withdrew hundreds of millions of acres of federally owned land in the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean from new offshore oil and gas drilling in December 2016, he put a dagger into the heart of the National Park system.

You didn’t hear that back then did you?

Let’s go through the details.

The National Park Service (NPS) budget consists of a discretionary part and mandatory part. In 2017, the discretionary part is $2.8B and the mandatory part is $0.6 for a total of $3.4B.

An interesting number the NPS also publishes is “deferred maintenance.” That number is $11.3B. You could read this two ways; the NPS is operating outside its mission or Congress isn’t adequately funding it for its mission. Or it could mean they just made up a number to see if they could get Congress to give them more money — because it would be good. But that’s way too cynical! (NOT!)

In 1965, Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund to tax offshore oil and gas production as a means of buying new lands for national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and trail systems,

The fund currently receives $900 million per year. Like most well intended programs, about 1/2 the money is siphoned off for other purposes by Congress. Swell.

It should be obvious that funding for the NPS is broken. The requested 2018 budget for the NWS is $2.6B in discretionary funding and in $0.7 in mandatory. This 10% reduction is, of course, cruel, mean, and nasty. My take is that they’re lucky to be getting that much — they are simply spending way too much money! I’m all for national parks but I can think of a lot better ways to spend money that will benefit more people!

President Trump must just bang his head on the Resolute desk when he’s briefed on agencies like this. I’m not an expert here at all but it seems pretty clear to me that:

  1. The NPS budget must adjust their mission to match the available funding.
  2. They need to get control of deferred maintenance in some way through partnership with the private sector, eliminating the requirement by realizing that not everything can be preserved, and through better utilization of the budget they’re given.
  3. Fix the siphoning of funds by Congress from the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  4. If I can be so bold, eliminate all programs from the Land and Water Conservation Fund that transfer funds from the federal government to the states for environmental programs. The states and local governments can pay for their own parks and recreation areas if their citizens so desire!
  5. DRILL, BABY, DRILL and make sure the money goes to where it’s supposed to go.

I’ve made an error, please let me know. Spartans are so shy about making their opinions known!

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