Selling Off the Parks

A retreat center was built inside Utah"s Zion National Park because the park didn"t have the money to buy the land when it was on the market.©

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) reported last week that 1.8 million acres of private land within 55 existing U.S. national parks—so-called "in-holdings"—are on the National Park Service’s "wish list." If the parks don’t acquire the land, it could jeopardize the nation’s natural and historical heritage. The group contends in a report that if the federal government can’t appropriate the purported $1.9 billion to buy the land (much of which is for sale at market prices) unchecked development could encroach on parks" appeal coast-to-coast.

"This is about protecting the integrity and completing the mission of the National Park Service," Ron Tipton, senior vice president for programs at NPCA, told reporters. "In most instances, Congress has directed that these parcels, some of which are now immediately threatened by development, be purchased by the National Park Service, but the money hasn’t yet been provided."

NPCA would like to see Congress tap the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for the funds in time for the Park Service centennial in 2016. Funding for the omnibus LWCF comes primarily from fees paid by companies conducting offshore oil and gas drilling in American waters. But Congress, which has agreed to a Bush administration increase in parks funding despite the economic downturn, might not go along with the acquisition of additional land.

Sources: National Parks Conservation Association; LA Times