Why such an increase? The National Park Service is hoping to tackle its deferred maintenance backlog of over $11 billion. This backlog consists of all the maintenance projects that were not completed on schedule and were consequently put off or delayed. The symptoms of this backlog are rampant throughout our national parks: deteriorating wastewater systems, run-down visitor centers, and dilapidated hiking trails. How do you get an $11 billion backlog? It’s not an issue with a lack of funding; it’s how that funding is used.
And while the backlog grows and families are locked out of an affordable vacation, the government continues to acquire more land under the premise that “the federal government can manage the land better.” Fortunately, when it comes to national parks, there is a practical, positive solution.
Each year, the National Park Service receives money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which by law can only be used to purchase land. Since LWCF’s inception, the park service has received $4.5 billion, an average of almost $85 million a year. But as the park service acquires more land, it must maintain more land, putting our park rangers in an impossible position.
Expecting the park service to keep buying land when its resources are insufficient to care for the land it already manages is unfair to the land managers and neglectful of the responsibility to be careful stewards of our public lands. It is a situation that demands a change in policy.