FLORENCE, S.C. -- Our national parks have received a lot of attention over the last few years. We have added several. We have added the first architectural national park in the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The parks are often the center of political fights between parties, being the first to shut down during budget stalemates, or taking hits from each side based on whatever climate change or capitalism goals are presented.
One thing is absolutely true though, and that is our parks are among the most diverse and beautiful on the planet.
Whether it is the Everglades and its rich swampland waters and the life they harbor, or the hot white dunes of the newly created White Sands National Park in New Mexico, we are fortunate to have access to such natural and lovely places. However, there is a problem.
Our infrastructure at these locales are beginning to suffer. Through budgetary cuts, increases in visitation, and overall aging, things begin to deteriorate and need attention.
Everywhere from Yosemite to Yellowstone, Acadia to Big Bend, facilities need to be repaired, rebuilt or added on to. With the recent COVID-19 shutdowns, we as a people have begun to realize how much we miss these connections to nature and earth.
Last year the National Park Service estimated 327 million visitors enjoyed our national park system. Of those visitors, there was an economic impact of more than $41 billion and accounted for 340,000 jobs. With this, we still had not enacted legislation to allow for a permanent funding solution for upgrade and upkeep for our parks.
Until now that is.
President Trump has taken some hits, and rightly so in some cases, on his decisions with the park system. Designating new national parks seemed to follow party lines on whether it was a good thing or bad thing, but the main reason for the actual national park designation is once a parcel that is under national park guidance becomes an actual national park rather than a national forest, national recreational area, or what ever it was prior, attendance goes up and revenue is increased.
In other decisions Trump pushed for allowing mining and mineral rights to companies within the boundaries of national park areas. Again, this was met with criticism or praise based on party lines.
But his most recent decision in which the administration worked with Congress for new landmark conservation legislation, boundaries within the two chambers crossed, with a consistent 75% affirmative vote from both the Senate and House.
This legislation provides a consistent income of up to $1.9 billion per year to repair facilities and infrastructure such as roads in the national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreational areas and Native American schools, as well as permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 million each year for conservation and recreational opportunities.
The funds will not come from the taxpayer either. These will be funded by royalties on offshore oil and gas drilling. In the most simple of terms, it is almost self-funding, as monies the US brings in from its natural resources are going back into our natural resources.
And no matter what side of the aisle you root for, it seems this decision was well received.