Is Donald Trump Trying to Increase Privatization in America’s National Parks?

Is Donald Trump Trying to Increase Privatization in America’s National Parks?

Is Donald Trump Trying to Increase Privatization in America’s National Parks?

In short, the evidence suggests yes. Under new plans, put forward in a report by the specially assembled Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, National Park areas could see new infrastructure built by private companies – including Amazon delivery points at campsites, expanded Wi-Fi coverage and food trucks for starters.

‘Vying for Control’

“Our recommendations would allow people to opt for additional costs if they want, for example, Amazon deliveries at a particular campsite,” said the report’s helmsman Derrick Crandall. However, there were some who pointed out that many of the Advisory Committee’s members also represent companies like Aramark, who run campsite amenities in various National Parks and could stand to profit from increased commercialization of these currently undeveloped and wild areas. “The trouble with these recommendations is that they were written by concessionaire industry representatives vying for more control of national parks,’ said a spokesperson for Western Values Project, a non-profit organisation that aims to protect America’s wild landscapes.

Another proposal put forward to the government by the committee, as the Trump administration seeks to cut National Park spending by $480 million over the next two years, is to cancel the Senior Citizen’s discounted entry programme at peak times. This all comes as part of the administration’s drive to increase profitability in all areas of the economy. Roughly $58 billion was spent in local communities by the National Park Service’s 486 million recreational visitors in 2018 alone. That’s a lot of cash, so the attraction for the government is obvious.

The Bottom Line

However, increasing the capacity for visitors to spend dollars also creates its own problems – especially when paired with budget cuts. More Amazon deliveries and food trucks might sound good in theory, but in practice it creates more waste and adds pressure on roads, infrastructure and natural environments. There are also already organisations in place to encourage more recreational visitors from disadvantaged urban communities: those who might need to experience this country’s majestic natural landscapes the most. “My primary concern is that this would increase barriers, particularly for low-income families, for seniors, and for other marginalized groups to enjoy the outdoors and our public lands”, said a representative of The National Park Service Office of Relevancy, Inclusion and Diversity – who haven’t had a budget increase in years.

Of course, the idea is that privatization leads to a better experience across the board. In some areas, this can certainly be true – even if the service may end up being prohibitively expensive for many users. However, private industry does not have the best track record when it comes to dealing with areas of natural beauty and importance. Last year, despite many park officials wishes to the contrary, a Starbucks opened at a camp site in Yosemite. In this writer’s opinion, the USA’s fantastic National Parks deserve to be protected from rapacious profiteering, allowing their pristine natural appeal to remain undiluted by new Amazon delivery routes, 5G cell towers and the like.