HKS Authors

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America’s national parks “are the best idea we ever had.” So said Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Wallace Stegner. A new survey suggests Americans also consider the National Park Service (both the parks, and the associated programs of the agency which runs them) to be of the most valuable assets we ever had — worth some $92 billion a year. The present paper describes the results of the survey, which is the first-ever comprehensive estimate of the total economic value of the National Park Service (NPS). The valuation estimate covers NPS-administered lands, waters, and historic sites—the national park system. It also includes NPS programs, many of which extend far beyond the parks themselves, such as protection of natural landmarks and historic sites, partnerships with local communities, support of recreational activities, and educational programs. These two components of the NPS mission—managing the 400+ units of the national park system, and carrying out the 30+ external partnership programs—are the focus of our analysis. The remainder of this article describes the economic concepts, methodology, survey design, and results.


Michelle Haefele, John Loomis, and Linda Bilmes. "Total Economic Value of US National Park Service Estimated to be $92 Billion: Implications for Policy." George Wright Forum 33.3 (December 2016): 335-345.