For as long as we have been writing about National Parks, we have talked about them needing more money. National Parks get less than 0.05 percent of the federal budget. Yet, 297.1 million people visited the parks last year. The parks need money to function.
The Great American Outdoors Act of 2020 was a huge help. But, with crumbling infrastructure and chronic understaffing, the parks need more. We can help as individuals by not littering, following the paths and following the rules when we visit to help the environment. We can also volunteer. But, more needs to be done.
Thankfully, the massive climate bill that just passed will help. The bill includes over a billion dollars for the park to aid staffing, maintenance and shore up their climate change resistance.
For the last couple of years, we’ve been discussing the massive crowds of people at the more popular parks and telling you to check out the lesser-known ones. We stand by that advice. You’re more likely to have quiet paths you don’t need to share and enjoy more breathing room. But, over the last few months, there have been many climate-related disasters at the parks. From the floods in Yellowstone and Death Valley to the wildfire in Yosemite, the parks were hit hard.
The new funds will help build climate-resistant infrastructure and add more staff to the parks. “This injection of money will help the parks service get out in front of some of these events,” said Kristen Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association.
More staff and better infrastructure mean they’ll be better prepared to welcome visitors. That’s welcome news to the towns around the parks that survive off of tourism. Many have suffered as parks limited the numbers of visitors or had to close because of disasters.
“So many of the national parks, almost by definition of course, are located in rural areas,” Prof. Robert Manning of the Univ. of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resource. “These communities have been built around the opportunity to serve the needs of visitors that come to these places.” The economies of these areas need the parks to thrive.
“The recent flooding at Yellowstone and fires at Yosemite are prime examples of the devastation that comes with the climate crisis, and the urgent need for climate legislation for our national parks and communities,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “This historic investment will ensure our parks have more resources and staff necessary to safeguard our parks from increasingly severe floods, fires, drought and other extreme weather. By addressing these staffing and infrastructure needs, while also boosting renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions, this bill will help protect our parks for future generations.”
She continued, “Climate change is happening right before our eyes and the effects are only becoming more frequent and severe. We’ve witnessed a historic drought shrivel Lake Mead to just 30 percent of its capacity. Last month, we watched unprecedented floods destroy roads and wash away houses in Yellowstone and inundate buildings and campsites in Voyageurs. And most recently, we saw another deadly wildfire threaten Yosemite and its ancient sequoia trees. This is an alarming trend, and our national parks are at the forefront.”
The national parks are receiving over a billion dollars. The money will be split with $500 million going to different conservation projects, $500 going to hiring park rangers and other employees and $200 being used for park maintenance that has been deferred.
We’re so pleased for the parks. We talk about visiting them so much. We urge you to get out there, see the less well-known ones and plan ahead for your trips! This should make visiting them more enjoyable, safer and possible for future generations!