Pioneers in the National Park Movement
Today, the national park system includes almost 400 sites, with parks in nearly every state.
From Yosemite National Park in California to Acadia National Park in Maine, and from Independence Hall to the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, America's national parks are home to some of our Nation's most beautiful landscapes and richest history.
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Question: What can I do right now?
Answer: We encourage you to tell your representatives in Congress that you care about our national parks and want them open and funded. If you’re planning a visit to a national park in the near future, let them know how a national park shutdown would affect you. If you were affected by the shutdown in 1995 and 1996, let them know that, too. But most importantly, make sure they know that their constituents care deeply about the national parks. Remember, if a shutdown occurs, it will happen after midnight on Friday, April 8th. It could last hours, days, or weeks.
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to speak to your representative. Use our answers to the questions below, as well as your personal experience, as talking points for your phone call.
Question: What happens to the communities the parks are located in or near?
Answer: National park closures in 1995-96 had a devastating impact on the people and businesses that depend on park tourism at parks including Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Everglades. During the last government shutdown, thousands of people who depended on the parks—employees of the Park Service, concessions operations, and the businesses in neighboring communities—found themselves temporarily out of work and without customers. It cost national park surrounding communities $14 million dollars a day. Every federal dollar invested in our national parks generates $4 in the local economies.
Question: National Park Week is April 16-24; will the parks be open even if the government is shutdown?
Answer: Unfortunately, they will not be open. Thousands of people, including many from other countries, will be turned away. A government shutdown would jeopardize family vacations and school field trips to places like the Statue of Liberty and Gettysburg. Tourists in Washington D.C. would not be able to go to the top of the Washington Monument or the exhibits at the Lincoln Memorial. The National Park Service has events planned around the country for National Park Week, but these would likely be canceled in the event of a shutdown.
Question: How would shutting down the parks affect our lives?
Answer: Nine out of every ten Americans have visited a national park, and just last year alone the parks welcomed more than 280 million visitors. Given our current economy, many American families have chosen to spend their family vacations and outings at a national park. If the parks are shut down, hundreds of thousands of Americans planning vacations or family outings will be turned away from enjoying our beautiful national parks. If the shutdown lasted for any amount of time, national parks would lose millions of visitors.
Question: How many national parks are there and how many would be shut down?
Answer: There are 394 National Park System units in 49 states. Sadly, the visitor centers, campgrounds, research centers and other facilities at all of these sites would generally be closed in the case of a government shutdown. Front gates will be locked and only the most essential park service personnel will be allowed to report to work. During the last shutdown, only one percent of park staff were able to report to work.
Question: Do the parks generate revenue?
Answer: Yes. A recent study commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association found that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public. National parks also support $13.3 billion of local private-sector economic activity and 267,000 private-sector jobs.
Question: What is the overall economic impact of closing the national parks?
Answer: The overall economic impact of national park closures would be substantial for some of the businesses that rely on the tourism that national parks draw. For example, during the last government shutdown, Mariposa County, California lost $10,000 per day in tax revenue because Yosemite was closed and 25 percent of adults in the county found themselves temporarily out of work. The total estimated economic loss could be more than $30 million a day.
Question: Is it economically advantageous for our government to invest in national parks?
Answer: Our national parks are critical to supporting the livelihood of businesses and communities across the country; so we have to do more than just keep them open. We have to keep them adequately funded. During a time of economic hardship when people are looking domestically for their spring and summer travels, we need to adequately fund the places that protect our American heritage and draw tourists from throughout the world. Park rangers and other staff are critical to protecting this unique American heritage and serving the many visitors who look forward to their national park vacations. People from around the world love to visit our national parks because they’re very clearly something America does right. Ronald Reagan called our national parks “the envy of the world,” and the National Parks Second Century Commission noted that “the National Park Service is arguably the most popular agency in the federal government.”
Question: Are park budgets threatened as a result of this congressional budget impasse?
Answer: Yes. The current short-term spending measure cut more than $100 million from the budget of the National Park Service. National parks protect our national treasures and generate many private-sector jobs. The NPS budget occupies only 1/13th of one percent of our federal budget. Yet there is a real threat that funding could be cut for park rangers and other staff who protect these special places, serve visitors and ensure their safety. We’re asking people to contact their members of Congress to urge them to both keep national parks open and prevent cuts to their funding.
Question: Wouldn't it be good for parks to have a break from visitation?
Answer: Closing our national parks would be the wrong thing to do. These national treasures should be open to everyone. People from all over the country and the world plan trips to our national parks every year. Closing our parks would not only deprive visitors of an experience of a lifetime, it would also mean that the men and women charged with protecting our national parks would not be available to do so. The biologists, ecologists, and other resource professionals that are employed by the park service work to rid our parks of invasive species and to protect the threatened and endangered species that call our national parks home. That work will be severely hampered by a government shutdown.