New Study Says Money Does Grow on Trees–Near National Parks
The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has released a new economic analysis that shows that the U.S. National Park System generates at least four dollars for state and local economies in return for every one tax dollar invested in the national parks’ annual budget.
The report, U.S. National Park System: An Economic Asset at Risk, produced for NPCA by independent economists Hardner & Gullison Associates, LLC, relies on a cost-benefit analysis methodology developed by the federal government under the Reagan Administration; economic impact analysis; and economic growth analysis.
The report’s unusual three-pronged approach provides a new, overall view of the significance of national parks to national, regional, and local stakeholders. Through system-wide analysis and the study of 12 individual parks, the report shows that the National Park System plays a major role in attracting and sustaining local businesses and communities in areas near parks.
According to the report, some parks, including Acadia and Point Reyes, generate economic benefits that exceed the government investment in their annual budgets by as much as 14 times. The intrinsic values of the national parks also attract small businesses and new residents to their region, resulting in economic growth in areas near parks that is an average of one percent per year greater than statewide rates over the past three decades.
The report examines the economic impact of 12 parks:
–Acadia National Park, Maine–annual benefit to cost ratio of 14.1 to 1;
–Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin–annual benefit to cost ratio of 2.6 to 1;
–Biscayne National Park, Florida–annual benefit to cost ratio of 5.5 to 1;
–Denali National Park, Alaska–annual benefit to cost ratio of 1.4 to 1;
–Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina–annual benefit to cost ratio of 4 to 1;
–Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania–annual benefit to cost ratio of 2.2 to 1;
–Joshua Tree National Park, California–annual benefit to cost ratio of 7.5 to 1;
–Point Reyes National Park, California–annual benefit to cost ratio of 14.1 to 1;
–Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado–annual benefit to cost ratio of 8.4 to 1;
–Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California–annual benefit to cost ratio of 2.5 to 1;
–Shenandoah National Park, Virginia–annual benefit to cost ratio of 4.4 to 1;
–Zion National Park, Utah–annual benefit to cost ratio of 10.5 to 1.
The NPCA cautions that the national parks need continuous attention. Shortchanging the parks of needed funding affects educational programming, maintenance, and the preservation of the very resources that lure visitors.
While evaluating the economic benefits related to small businesses and individuals that relocate to live near national parks, the report also cautions against inappropriate development, which is harmful to wildlife, scenic views, natural quiet, clean air, and other values that lure these new residents.
According to recent analysis, the national parks are now short more than $800 million annually. NPCA is advocating that Congress and the administration provide significant new funding to address the parks’ critical annual needs in the fiscal year 2008 budget.