National Park Foundation Announces Study Determining Value Of America's National Parks to Be $92 Billion

Contact: Doug Gavel
Phone: (617) 495-1115
Date: June 30, 2016

WASHINGTON DC - Today, the National Park Foundation (NPF) announced the first-ever study providing a comprehensive economic valuation of America's national parks and the programming provided by the National Park Service (NPS). The study, conducted by Professor John Loomis and Research Associate Michelle Haefele, both at Colorado State University, and Linda Bilmes of Harvard Kennedy School, determined the total economic value (TEV) of national parks and the National Park Service’s programs to be $92 billion.

The study, a reporting of total economic value, clearly demonstrates the public’s shared perception of the incredible benefits of national parks and programs, whether they personally visit parks or not. In fact, 95% of the American public said that protecting national parks for future generations was important and 80% would pay higher federal taxes to ensure the protection and preservation of the National Park System.

"Every day, we hear about the life-changing and enriching experiences of visitors to our national parks." said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. "While these experiences provide spiritual, emotional, and physical value to these visitors, this groundbreaking study documents the economic value the American public recognizes that our national parks give to our country."

“This study demonstrates the enormous value that the public places in the work of the National Park Service, even beyond the iconic and incredible places in our care,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “By affirming our commitment to the programs that help us preserve American culture and history through place, this study provides great context for the direction the National Park Service will move in our second century to tell a more complete and diverse story of who we are and what we value as a nation.“

"Even though national parks are priceless public assets, it's important to estimate how much the American public would pay to protect them," said Linda J. Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University.  "This study is a birthday wake-up call that shows Americans value the NPS at least 30 times more than the government spends on them."

Professor John Loomis concluded that “This study demonstrates that more than half of the total economic value of national parks is attributable to the benefits the American public receives from just knowing the National Park System is protected for current and future generations.”

The methods used in this total economic value study are fully consistent with other valuation efforts within the federal government to analyze proposed regulations, evaluate environmental compliance alternatives, quantify losses of natural resources from oil spills, and other purposes. This study was peer-reviewed and will be submitted for publication in academic journals.

Different from the National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects model that describes the benefits that accrue to surrounding communities through sustained economic activity and jobs, this study estimates a value to national parks and National Park Service programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the National Natural Landmarks Program.

The Congressionally-chartered National Park Foundation raises private funds in support of America’s national parks and programs. Currently, NPF is in the middle of its largest comprehensive fundraising effort to date, the Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks. The $350 million campaign will make transformative investments to protect America’s special places, connect people from all backgrounds to parks, and inspire future generations of national park stewardship. To date, the Foundation’s total fundraising is more than $225 million. 

The research for this study was funded through the generosity of the National Park Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the Turner Foundation, Cody J. Smith of the Summit Foundation, and UPD Consulting Inc., and under the auspices of Colorado State University and Harvard University.

This study is part of a larger study of the value of the National Parks led by Bilmes and Loomis that is looking at the value of ecosystem management, intellectual property creation, education and other aspects of value. See other studies in the series:  

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