National parks: What are they worth?
CSU researchers lead groundbreaking study valuing America’s National Parks at $92 billion
Rocky Mountain National Park by Nic Showalter via National Park Foundation’s Share the Experience Photo Contest
Published June 30, 2016
When placing value on something like a national park, one might think to calculate the value gained from visits, camping or other recreational activities. Now, according to a new study led by Colorado State University and Harvard University researchers, the total economic value of the National Park Service’s parks and programs is estimated to be $92 billion and includes the value placed by Americans who have never even visited a national park.
The study, a reporting of total economic value or TEV, demonstrates the public’s shared perception of the incredible benefits of national parks and programs, whether they personally visit parks or not. In fact, 95 percent of the American public said that protecting 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 System.
Gulf Islands National Seashore by the National Park Foundation
“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,” said John Loomis, professor of agricultural and resource economics at CSU and one of the study’s authors.
The methods used in this total economic value study are consistent with other valuation efforts within the federal government to analyze proposed regulations, evaluate environmental compliance alternatives and quantify losses of natural resources from oil spills, as well as other purposes. The study was peer-reviewed and will be submitted for publication in academic journals.
Different from the National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects model that describes the benefits that accrue to surrounding communities through sustained economic activity and jobs, this study estimates a value to national parks and National Park Service programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the National Natural Landmarks Program. It comes as the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary.
“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,” said Loomis.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park by Howard Hill via National Park Foundation’s Share the Experience Photo Contest
Birthday wake-up call
“This study confirms that Americans care deeply about the national parks and are willing to pay to ensure their continued existence for another 100 years,” said Michelle Haefele, a research associate at CSU and the study’s lead author.
“Even though national parks are priceless public assets, it’s important to estimate how much the American public would pay to protect them,” said Professor Linda J. Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University and another of the study’s authors. “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.”
Yellowstone National Park by the National Park Foundation
The research for this study was funded through the National Park Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the Turner Foundation, Cody J. Smith of the Summit Foundation, and UPD Consulting Inc., and under the auspices of Colorado State University and Harvard University.
This study is part of a larger study of the value of the National Parks led by Bilmes and Loomis that is looking at the value of ecosystem management, intellectual property creation, education and other aspects of value. See other studies in the series:
- Carbon Sequestration in the U.S. National Parks: A Value Beyond Visitation—Summary
- Carbon Sequestration in the U.S. National Parks: A Value Beyond Visitation
- The Value of America’s Greatest Idea: Framework for Total Economic Valuation of National Park Service Operations and Assets
The full study can be read here. An additional article about this study from the researchers is available at The Conversation.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help protect more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, connect all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and inspire the next generation of park stewards. In 2016, commemorating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, the Foundation launched The Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, a $350 million comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of these national treasures for the next hundred years. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at www.nationalparks.org.
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve by Valentina Gatewood via National Park Foundation’s Share the Experience Photo Contest