How Much Are Our National Parks Worth?
PHOTO: Yosemite is one of the nation's most popular national parks. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
The National Parks Foundation recently conducted a first-ever study to create a comprehensive economic valuation of the country’s national parks and their programming - in short, they wanted to find out if you could put a dollar value on our national parks. As it turns out, you can.
The study, conducted by professor John Loomis and research associate Michelle Haefele, of Colorado State University, and Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School, determined that the total economic value (TEV) of national parks and the National Park Service’s programs is $92 billion.
Preserving our parks is important to the American public. According to the researchers, the study, a reporting of total economic value, demonstrates the public’s shared perception of the benefits of our national parks and programs, regardless of whether they personally visit the parks or not. In fact, when asked, 95 percent of the American public said that protecting the national parks for future generations was important and 80 percent would pay higher federal taxes to ensure the protection and preservation of the National Park Service.
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"Every day, we hear about the life-changing and enriching experiences of visitors to our national parks,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. "While these experiences provide spiritual, emotional, and physical value to these visitors, this groundbreaking study documents the economic value the American public recognizes that our national parks give to our country."
The National Parks Service believes that the survey will play an important part in the future development of the parks programming.
“This study demonstrates the enormous value that the public places in the work of the National Park Service, even beyond the iconic and incredible places in our care,” said National Park Service director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “By affirming our commitment to the programs that help us preserve American culture and history through place, this study provides great context for the direction the National Park System is protected for current and future generations.”
Service will move in our second century to tell a more complete and diverse story of who we are and what we value as a nation.“
While our national parks are priceless assets to the country, the study is important to estimate how much the American people would pay to protect them, said researchers.
"This study is a birthday wake-up call that shows Americans value the NPS at least 30 times more than the government spends on them,” said Bilmes.
The research concluded that Americans overwhelmingly support the programming and benefits that the national parks provide.
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Loomis concluded that “this study demonstrates that more than half of the total economic value of national parks is attributable to the benefits the American public receives from just knowing the National Park System is protected for current and future generations.”
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