A New Deal style policy investing $2.5 billion in the National Parks Service could create more than 57,000 new jobs nationwide, according to a recent report published by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). I talked to Tom Hill, NPCA’s Legislative Representative, to learn more about the report.
The National Parks system has suffered from chronic underfunding for many years, according to Hill. In fact, funding falls about $750 million short of what is needed each year. This shortfall has led to a widespread deterioration in park infrastructure. Unmaintained roads, trails, and bridges pose real safety threats to park visitors, and irreplaceable historic buildings are crumbling due to lack of repair. The total backlog for road repair and maintenance alone totals a staggering $8.5 billion.
“National Parks should be a priority,” says Hill, noting that the parks are part of our national heritage.
But Hill is also eager for people to know about the economic benefits of the park system. A recent NPCA study that found that “…every dollar invested in national parks generates at least $4 in economic value to the public.” Hill describes funding for the National Parks System as an investment that can produce very real economic returns. He explains that spending money to improve park infrastructure can create new jobs both directly and indirectly. Improvements in infrastructure can lead to increased use of the parks by the public, which means more tourist dollars and new economic opportunities for states and local communities.
Lawmakers in Washington are eager to include “shovel ready” projects in the economic stimulus package. Hill is confident that the plan advocated by the NPCA fall into that category. In fact the National Park Service has $1 billion in ready-to-go projects awaiting funding.
“They fall into the category of things that can put people to work quickly,” he notes.
While most of the policy makers approached by the NPCA have been supportive of the group’s proposals, Hill believes that the details of the economic stimulus package probably won’t become clear until after President-Elect Barack Obama is sworn into office next week.
“It continues to be important for people to let their own members of Congress know that taking care of National Parks should be a priority,” says Hill. “In this case it can also stimulate economic growth.”
You can help the NPCA send a strong message to Congress by writing a letter to editor of your local newspaper. Tell them you want your representatives in Congress to create new jobs by investing in the future of America’s national parks!
Click here to write a letter to the editor
Click here to read NPCA’s report
Click here to subcribe to the Green Jobs Report online