If we were to dig up and reanimate the corpse of Teddy Roosevelt, I’m pretty sure he’d go rampaging through the halls of the White House looking for people to punch. Of course, he’d have several motivations for this, but the lack of respect for our National Parks would be chief among them.
President Donald Trump’s budget released Monday recommends extreme staffing cuts of nearly 2,000 National Park Service rangers at a time when national park visitation is at an all-time high.
The president’s budget proposes a drastic 16 percent cut to the Department of the Interior, which houses the National Park Service, and a cut of seven percent to the park service itself. In 2016, the national parks received record visitation rates of nearly 331 million visits. Cuts to park staff could lead to a reduction in services to the public, closed facilities, and heavier workloads for remaining staff.
These are the sacrifices we are asked to make so that Republicans can please their donors with gigantic tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. While even the Rockefellers saw the value in our parks, the current crop of nihilists sees nothing but dollar signs, and if it isn’t nailed down they think it should be privatized or defunded.
Think about the actual consequences of firing two thousand park rangers. We only have fifty-nine full-fledged National Parks. If we took just one ranger from each of the roughly 350 smaller sites within the system, that’s still 27 fewer rangers each at Yellowstone, at the Grand Canyon, at Yosemite, and so on down the list. That’s not only unjustifiable carnage; it would negatively impact maintenance, safety, and service.
Of course, the administration’s budget is a just a list of priorities, not a law. Hopefully, the Republicans who are serving on the appropriations subcommittees that handle the Department of the Interior will take this proposal and trampoline it to the moon.
I could be wrong about this, but I think funding for our National Parks is one area where almost everybody actually feels good about government expenditures. So, in addition to being stupid and awful, it is highly probable that this proposal is also very bad politics.