America’s national parks are seeking corporate sponsorship to offset some of the almost $12 billion they owe in backlogged expenses, causing environmental groups to file a petition with 200,000 signatures, demanding an end to “corporate entanglement.”
Petitioners are furious that, starting next year, the director of the National Park Service (NPS) will allow corporations to receive recognition and minor services for donations. They worry that corporations will start influencing policy through their donations, and point to how Coca-Cola managed to delay a ban on bottled water at Grand Canyon National Park.
“You could use Old Faithful to pitch Viagra,” Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility which supports the petition, told The Washington Post. “Or the Lincoln Memorial to plug hemorrhoid cream. Or Victoria’s Secret to plug the Statue of Liberty.”
Supporters of the policy in Congress and the park service note the NPS is only allowing the sale of temporary naming rights to some park buildings as well as companies to tastefully add their logos to NPS signs, printed materials, exhibits, donated material and websites.
“We’re encouraged by the efforts of the Park Foundation to work with corporate sponsors and other philanthropic interests,” Molly Block, a spokeswoman for the House of Representatives Natural Resource Committee, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is one approach, among many others, that will help the National Park Service address its deferred maintenance backlog.”
NPS’s fundraising arm has already obtained multi-million dollar donations from Budweiser and other companies in exchanged for using images of parks on beer cans and other areas. Yellowstone National Park is currently heavily sponsored by companies like Toyota and the energy company ConocoPhillips when the park couldn’t afford to meet critical needs.
Coca-Cola has also donated a large amount of money. Other major donations, such as several donated cars from the company Subaru, are allowing the NPS to maintain operations despite the almost $12 billion in backlogged maintenance.
“Our needs are astronomic,” Will Shafroth, president and chief executive of the park service’s fundraising arm, told The Washington Post. “The parks don’t have enough money to accomplish their goals.”
NPS needs to spend five times the amount it gets every year from Congress to fix its maintenance backlog, which is expected to grow each year, according to recent research from the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC).
Private donations received by the National Park Foundation account for about 9 percent of the parks system’s annual operating expenses. The foundation received $80 million from private donors last year alone.
Part of NPS’s enormous backlog is the agency has been more interested in expanding its operations than performing basic maintenance. The NPS has added 18 new units to the national parks system since 2009, costing the agency an enormous amount of money. The U.S. government has spent more than $10 billion acquiring new public lands, according to the Congressional Research Service, making the correlation between new park units and deferred maintenance quite direct.
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