A new poll has once again shown overwhelming support for national parks amongst registered voters in the U.S. Sending a clear message to elected officials, more than 95 percent of those surveyed indicated that they wanted the federal government to make the parks a priority and ensure that they will be around for future generations to enjoy as well.
The poll, which was commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA), was conducted with a national sample of registered voters from June 12-17 of this year. Eight out of ten respondents said that they had visited a national park at least once in their lives and nearly 90 percent said that they would like to visit a park in the future. Those high numbers are an indication of the overall importance of national parks to American travel and outdoor recreation, not to mention the country’s history and heritage.
The survey also revealed that only 6 percent of respondents feel that the national parks are in good shape as they are today. On the other hand 80 percent felt that the Park Service is underfunded and that the lack of funds is causing damage to the parks themselves. This is of particular importance as a further round of budget cuts are scheduled for early next year, which could result in fewer park rangers and the closure of some sites.
As the U.S. prepares for what is sure to be a contentious election this fall, candidates should take note of these numbers. A commitment to maintaining the park system shows a strong connection with environmental issues and the parks also generate a significant return on investment for the U.S. economy. According to the NPCA, funding for the entire park system is less than 1/13th of one percent of the total federal budget, yet the parks generate $31 billion in private-sector revenue and more than 258,000 jobs. Candidates should also be aware that 77 percent of those surveyed indicated that it is the responsibility of the next president to ensure that the parks are properly funded and restored for future use.
I’m a traveler who simply loves the amazing landscapes that make up our national parks, and while I wasn’t a part of this survey, I certainly would have responded similarly. The park system is a national treasure and I’d hate to see budget cuts undermine these great places. Lets hope that the next presidential administration and Congress recognize this as well and keep the parks protected.