National parks: window on America
“These are places that are so much a part of the fabric of our society, that it’s hard to imagine that we would be the same as a people without them in public ownership,” Smith adds with a sense of pride.
And what does it say about us as a society if we neglect these places? “One super bomber costs almost as much as the entire budget of the national park service,” Smith notes. “So what are our priorities?”
Making parks from national forests?
Michael Kellett, Director of the New National Parks Project would like to see more Federal land be made into national parks. He would like to see more picturesque national lands be brought under the umbrella of NPS protection, an change that he thinks might actually save the tax payers money.
Kellett believes that people often misjudge the cost of creating new parks from national forests. “What is missing from the conversation of the costs of new parks,” he says “is that we are already paying to manage these lands and that it would probably be cheaper to make them national parks,” because many places adjacent to parks or that could be potential parks are already federally owned. Many are national forests, which are owned by the public but are logged, mined, or otherwise used by private business for small fees. The government maintains the roads and infrastructure of these areas and charges businesses for a permit to used the lands.
Kellett says that the current arrangement is inefficient and detrimental to the preservation of scenic lands and wildlife. National forests have to be subsidized through government ownership, in any event, because many of those lands are not profitable.
“The reason that these lands are national forests,” he explains, “is that they were what was leftover after all the good stuff was homesteaded.” If the lands were not subsidized by the federal government — through ownership and the maintenance of their roads and other infrastructure — he says, it would not be profitable to use them for commercial purposes.