What is going on in Congress? First, it talks about giving pizza sauce the status of a vegetable, now it wants to cut the budget for national parks. A number of federal programs are under discussion to be axed and a ‘super committee’ is said to be in charge of trimming excess spending to rein in the deficit. Unfortunately, national parks resource protection and historic landmark conservation are facing steep budget cuts.
National parks in America are already under-funded and they only make up a tiny portion of the budget in comparison to military spending, health care, and many other issues. Conservation of national parks only comprises 1.2 percent of the national budget, but they contribute more than $1 trillion to the US economy every year. They also support millions of American jobs which cannot be outsourced, outdoor recreation alone creates 6.5 million jobs.
In addition to creating jobs, national parks also act as home to several species of animals and plants, some of which are threatened or endangered. Visiting these parks helps to create a sense of pride and environmental awareness which is severely lacking. All of these benefits cannot be quantified with a dollar amount but provide intangible perks to the country and its economy.
Many companies are now actively promoting the preservation of natural landscapes as part of their CSR strategy because they understand that conservation does offer business benefits, even indirectly. Smart companies recognize that there is a business case for conservation. Last year, Robert Costanza, an ecological economist from the University of Maryland, suggested that global ecosystems provide goods and services valued at $33 trillion each year. National parks form a very crucial part of these ecosystems because they are often located in ecologically vulnerable areas. Many companies also oppose commercial development like mining, in national parks or areas close to them for the same reason. Another study by Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets predicts that our current rate of biodiversity loss could see 6 percent of global GDP wiped out as early as 2050. Cutting the federal budget for national parks will only hasten the loss of biodiversity and will adversely affect economy.
An excellently worded piece by John Nau in The Hill further stresses the need for preservation of natural spaces. He says:
“The federal budget cannot and should not be balanced disproportionately on the backs of conservation, outdoor recreation and historic preservation programs at a time when they are creating such strong returns on the taxpayers’ investment.”
Last year, I was utterly enthralled during a visit to Yosemite National Park. Being surrounded by natural beauty of such unimaginable scale, was amazing. I also visited the Grand Canyon, and to think that these precious pieces of natural history will not be afforded protection is unthinkable.
America is supposedly the leader of the free world. To Congress, I will say this: act like it. Pizza is not a vegetable and find the money from bloated military budgets to give national parks the protection and recognition they deserve. Not only does such beauty belong to American citizens, it belongs to the world.
Image Credit: Yosemite Valley. Akhila Vijayaraghavan © All Rights Reserved.