Rep. Suzan DelBene knows that saving nature is not just a good idea, but also a good business plan for Washington (Sunday Viewpoints commentary, “Care for nature and it will reward our state”).
Rep. DelBene’s district is anchored by the North Cascades National Park and the nearby Ross Lake National Recreation Area. The National Park Service estimates that visitation to the two parks generated nearly $25 million within the immediate region in 2011. Interestingly, back-country visitors to these parks spend about twice as much per person as front country users.
Overall, our national park system generates up to $10 for every $1 dollar invested. That’s a great return, especially for the communities close to major parks like North Cascades.
Unfortunately, the Congressional “sequester” of across the board funding cuts undermines programs without regard for their benefits. At North Cascades and national parks across the country, this means fewer rangers to serve visitors, which could lead to fewer stops at nearby communities or less people engaged in outdoor activities. Across Washington, these budget cuts have forced campgrounds and visitor centers to close, and have not slowed the ground backlog of necessary projects.
As the National Park System approaches its 2016 centennial, Congress and the President must renew their commitment to protecting our national legacy of historic sites and natural landscapes by fully funding our parks.
Western author Wallace Stegner famously called our national park system “the best idea we ever had.” They are also one of the best investments we can make in our state’s economic future.
Northwest Regional Director
National Parks Conservation Association