Americans Love Their Parks
Harvard Study Finds Public Values National Parks at $92 Billion
A recent Harvard University study (http://tinyurl.com/h29yzza) found that the American public values its national parks at $92 billion. The number represents the value for the parklands, waters and historic sites ($62 billion), as well as the value of the National Parks Services many programs. The study claims that this number is actually based on "conservative assumptions," and was determined through surveying U.S. households, asking what amounts they would be willing to pay in increased taxes over a 10 year period in order to keep the current NPS programs and national parks intact. Respondents were overwhelmingly in favor of preserving the national parks and the NPS, with 95% stating that it was important to them. Interestingly, this sentiment was largely independent of respondents' actual usage of the national parks; 85% said that they "personally benefitted from national parks, regardless of whether they visited or not." The knowledge that the parks are protected and that they will be available for future generations was valuable enough.
Given these findings, it would seem that Americans highly value the land and nature of their country, as they should! Linda Bilmes, the lead researcher of the Harvard study, has done previous research on the benefits of the NPS and national parks. These include carbon sequestration, watershed protection, and public education, which are all important factors for city and regional planners to consider. Federal funding for the NPS is currently at about three billion dollars a year.