Americans are proud of their national parks and are willing to pay more to preserve them

Researchers from Harvard and Colorado State have found that Americans would be willing to pay 30 times more than the current annual appropriation in order to preserve and maintain the US National Park system.

According to the study, the US public would pay more than $90 billion a year to sustain and protect America’s iconic places. Yet the US National Park system currently receives less than $3 billion a year from Congress and suffers from a multi-billion dollar backlog of corroded and broken infrastructure.

Nearly 95 percent of citizens who participated in the study said national parks are important to them. Is there anything else Americans agree on nearly unanimously?

Not only is the park service’s annual budget insufficient for its current needs, it is about 15 percent lower, in today’s dollars, than it was in 2001. In addition, the service has a maintenance backlog of about $12 billion for infrastructure projects, such as campgrounds, trails, bridges and roads. In other words, the National Parks as they’re currently funded are decaying, because we’re not maintaining them.

Private philanthropy has already played a role in shoring up many individual parks, but the park system doesn’t currently have a long-term philanthropic funding structure. So researchers are pushing for an endowment for the parks, similar to the common funding mechanism used by universities, museums hospitals and others institutions.

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