Funding national parks is essential

Recommending that Congress devote more money to America’s national parks is pretty much a no-brainer.

That said, it could be that a recommendation by the National Parks Second Century
Commission simply doesn’t go far enough. The commission is asking that Congress spend $700 million over the next seven years, or $100 million a year. Even by the inflated standards of, say health care reform, that amounts to real money and as such, it should be considered on its merits.

The National Park Service’s holdings stretch literally from sea to sea. They include the Statue of Liberty overlooking New York City, Yosemite National Park in California, Yellowstone and

Grand Teton national parks in Wyoming, Canyonlands and Arches national parks in Utah and, of course, Colorado National Monument and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in western Colorado.

Save the Statue of Liberty, all are natural wonders that have stood for millions of years without the help of man. Man, however, has played a significant role in the last hundred years at these scenic and wondrous places. Balancing the preservation of the vistas that attract millions of people against the effects of the same people comes at no small price.

Monuments and parks in many cases are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as is the case with the Colorado National Monument. They also tend to be in places of extremes, witness Yellowstone in winter, to pick a place. It’s incumbent on the United States to take care as best it can of the lands it has carefully chosen to set aside for special treatment.

That doesn’t come easy and it’s flat expensive.

On the other side of the equation, of course, is the fact that places such as the Monument are economic drivers of immense proportions. Were there no Colorado National Monument, we hesitate to guess what would have become of the tourist economy. Certainly Moab, Utah, would be a far different place were its surroundings not considered so remarkable.

We can and should quibble about government spending, but the places that bear the name and sum up the history of the United States should rank at the top of the list of federal priorities.


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