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Reader Participation Day: Should There Be a Moratorium On Additions To the National Park System?


If you follow national parks and the National Park Service to any degree, you likely know that the agency has a very hefty maintenance backlog. Latest figures show that backlog is somewhere between $8 billion and $9 billion.

And yet, members of Congress have no qualms about adding new units to the National Park System. Would you run your household this way? Is it fiscally prudent to keep adding units when we can't seem to afford the ones we already have?

Or, because some of these opportunities are not going to be around forever, should those that merit entrance to that elite club called the National Park System be added with the details about how to pay for them, as well as getting serious about wiping out the backlog, put off for some other day?

Bottom line, travelers: Should there be a moratorium on additions to the National Park System until the red ink is wiped out?


No one, government or individual, can go on spending money they don't have. One would think with the Great Recession that lesson would be have been learned but not for some. Parks are nice, politicians aren’t. Clean up the mess before you make another one, no additions.

Absolutely. If there are insufficient funds to effectively operate the parks we have, we shouldn't add more to the system. I'm amazed to see continual bills introduced (by both parties) to investigate the possibility of creating this or that historic site, thus stretching the NPS budget by another park. I even advocate "pruning" a few parks, as the Traveler puts it. I can understand Mather's and Albright's concerns about "diluting" the national parks with sites that have less-than-superlative resources, or less-than-national significance.

There's been some local support to make Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument into a national park, or to at least change its jurisdiction from the Forest Service to the NPS. It seems clear is that goal is to get better funding and perhaps better tourist facilities. However - it would probably just shift money and probably make it tougher on the NPS.

Maybe there should be more thought to having less infrastructure in the Parks. It makes sense to add them to protect from encroachment but we don't need to turn each of them into Disneyland.

This is a tough call. If we delay including additional significant areas into the national parks system while we wait for budgets to stabilize, those areas may be lost for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, if adding new areas threatens the preservation and protection of existing areas, tough choices will have to be made.

The real question is this: How much budget shortfall should be tolerated before a park or porton of a park must be closed to the public because of threats to the protection and preservation of the resource? NPS units serve as local and regional economic engines. For this reason alone, it is very unpopular politically if a park is considered for closing.

Nevertheless, at some point, doing more wtih less turns into doing less with less, and protection, interpretation, and preservation suffer. At what point should parks close visitor centers and cancel all interpretive activities? At what point should law enforcement activities be contracted out to local police and sheriff's departments. At what point is the degree of budget shortfall so significant that the total closing of parks must be considered?

If parks are closed because of budget shortfall, what impact will this have on local and regional communities that depend on park tourism for their incomes? To what extent do parks depend on user fees? Should parks that have no user fees by law have their laws changed so user fees are collected at entrance gates? What impact will this have on visitation?

Taking parks off the NPS payroll is not a solution, as someone else will have to carry the tab. The transfer of Mt. St. Helens National Monument from the USFS to the NPS is a case in point, although the transfer in this case would be in the opposite direction.

I think that there are intelligent ways of managing our national deficit without putting an outright ban on additional units to the national parks system. Adding new units to our national parks system is not a reason why our current budget is in the mess it's in, and it' won't be the reason why we cannot fix this situation for the future. Adding new units to the national parks system, however, should be done in such a manner that it does not substantially inflict detrimental effects on existing parks.

NO, NO and NO--in fact, we should be adding more sites and expanding existing units. In my opinion it's a matter of priorities, not a matter of lack of money per se. There always seems to be enough money for say foreign military adventures, tax cuts for the hyper-rich, and other goals sought by a certain segment of the populace, but when it comes to "the best idea America ever had"--why, we can't afford that. I agree it's not possible to save every "worthy" site as a park but adding a few new units (4 or 5?--1% or so unit growth) every year--plus eliminating some of the maintenance and acquisition backlog) should be doable.

In the meantime, Canada is looking better and better every week, and it has a fine (and growing) national park system, too.

Nope, I support continuous acquisition, like in handing over Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument to the NPS as long as there is an agreement of no further development.
”Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.“ Aldo Leopold

Yes, I agree with the moratorium Idea. Write up the petition, I'll sign it. Include a provision whereas any and all monies taken in by the National Park System be used solely by the National Park System and are not to be collected by the Federal Government as if another tax to be divided up and a mere stipend returned to the Park Service which is clearly not enough.
Thank you guys (and Ladies) for the awesome job that you do. I have thoroughly enjoyed all visits to to our National Parks.

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