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Traveler's View: Economics Are Nice, But How About Ecology?

Mangroves at Everglades National Park are great for carbon storage, but studies show they are declining through a dieback/NPS fileNPS file

Mangroves at Everglades National Park are great for carbon storage, but USGS studies show they are declining through a dieback/NPS file

While the National Park Service recently made news by promoting the economics tied to the National Park System -- last year, visitation to the parks generated an estimated $28.6 billion for the country's economy -- just as, if not more, important would be capturing the parks' contribution to the natural world.

The Earth is being overcome by climate change, biodiversity is at risk, and invasive species are threatening to rewrite the faunal and floral makeup of some parks. Getting an annual measure of how the National Park System is, or is not, playing a meaningful, measureable role in combatting those issues is vital.

Though it's good to know that Grand Teton National Park helped its gateway businesses generate $754 million in economic activity in 2020, how is the park doing in its battle with aquatic invasive species and nonnative mountain goats? Equally nice to know is that Everglades National Park spurred $103 million in economic activity last year, but how are the park's battles with invasive species such as Burmese pythons, Argentine black-and-white tegu, and Old World climbing fern faring? (And then there was news the other week that the mangrove forests below Flamingo are not doing well.)

Are Asian shore crabs multiplying in the waters of Acadia National Park in Maine as quagga mussels did in the waters of Lake Powell at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and Arizona? Where do things stand with the attack on ash trees by emerald ash borer in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, and the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid not just in Shenandoah but also in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway?

It is invaluable to know how parks are faring under myriad natural resource pressures, and there should be economic interest in those answers. After all, a degradation of park resources and experiences will evolve into a decline in visitor spending on those gateway towns.

An annual report card of how the National Park System is weathering the impacts of climate, biodiversity loss, and invasive species would be an immeasurable monitoring of how we're taking care of nature. And, as the economic report is used to persuade Congress to better invest in the park system, an annual report on natural conditions in the system could also be used to argue for better funding and research.

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A good reminder, Kurt!

This concept of Parks "generating economic activity" is total BS other than their local impact.  If the Parks didn't exist, the vast majority of those discretionary dollars would have been spent elsewhere.  Someone that goes to a National Park for a weeks vacation isn't going to stay home and watch TV if that Park isn't available. 


Except for those who do. Good grief, Buck, when you bloviate like this, don't you on occasion just sit back and admire how lucky you have been to find someplace where you  can post absolute nonsense and on most occasions get away with it?

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