From The Hill's Overnight Energy and Environment email:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and the rest of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will get a chance Tuesday to challenge Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on her department's budget request for fiscal year 2016.
Jewell will be the sole witness at the hearing on Interior's budget. The Obama administration is asking for $13.2 billion, an 8 percent hike from the current funding. It includes items like reducing the payments the states get for offshore drilling and new money for the National Park Service to prepare for its centennial next year.
Here is what PERC has to say about additional funding for the national parks:
Last year, America’s national parks received more visits than ever before, according to new data released by the National Park Service. A record-setting 292.8 million people visited national parks in 2014, breaking the earlier park attendance record set back in 1987.
But a lot has changed since 1987. Population has increased considerably, and so have the number of parks. So how do the new visitation numbers compare once we consider these other factors?
The chart above shows national park visitation as a share of the overall U.S. population. Since 1987, U.S. population has increased by approximately 75 million people. Measured on a per capita basis, national park visitation is about 20 percent less than it was in 1987. As a share of the population, park visitation has gradually declined almost ever since.
This decline is even more pronounced once we consider the growth of the National Park System. Since 1980, more than 70 national park units have been added to the National Park System. Yet these additional parks do not seem to be attracting more overall visits per capita.
As the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2016, there is much emphasis being placed on its ability to attract people to parks – especially millennials. Park visitors can play an important role in funding parks in their next century and helping to address the agency’s $12 billion maintenance backlog. But these data suggest that the National Park Service still has much work to do.
Raising user fees at popular parks would raise revenue and allocate scarce space those who are most willing (and able) to pay for park visits. To answer my own question above, the goal of equity got in the way. At some point, the National Park Service decided that everyone should get a chance to visit the most popular parks. Access is rationed by lottery and queuing. And then taxpayers are asked to fund the system.