Biden Commits $195 Million for National Park Preservation

Preserving national parks amidst climate change impacts is a costly business. The Department of Energy recently announced a $195 million investment in national parks over the next decade. The funds are part of President Biden’s Investing in America initiative, created in his January 27, 2021, executive order. In August 2023, the Biden administration announced over $44 million for National Parks for critical ecosystem resilience, restoration, and environmental planning needs.

The funding will be used for 40 projects in hundreds of national parks. The projects include climate change preparation, protecting species, restoring ecosystems, and investing in conservation jobs. One of the projects is reintroducing bison to Glacier National Park. The DOE awarded Glacier $1.5 million for the project, which will support the Blackfeet’s vision to establish free-ranging bison in northwest Montana.

Two other projects will increase bison numbers. Yellowstone received $3 million to expand bison transfers to tribes, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve also received $3 million to establish a new conservation herd.

“This investment in conservation demonstrates an unprecedented commitment towards tackling the climate crisis and strengthening America’s resilience,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “From protecting species to rebuilding outdoors infrastructure, this investment will support ongoing efforts to protect and preserve our nation’s most cherished places.”

The DOE first announced the funding as part of the release of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), which assesses climate changes and their national and regional impacts. According to the NCA5, greenhouse gas emissions increased in the U.S., which resulted in rapid warming, among other effects. Across the U.S., warmer temperatures and longer heatwaves abound. Other extremes, including droughts and floods, are increasing in frequency and severity. Extreme events come with a price tag of $150 billion annually.

The Benefits of Preserving National Parks

Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872. However, the National Park Service was established in 1916. The NPS oversees 429 parks covering over 85 million acres in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and U.S. territories. As development affects more and more areas of wilderness, national parks serve as a means of preservation. They are the nation’s largest source of open land, and as such, they connect Americans to nature.

Conservation of natural areas like national parks provides many benefits. It provides landscapes that reduce carbon, cleanse air and water, and protect wildlife habitat while offering safe and affordable public access to nature. It also brings economic benefits to neighboring communities and the nation. Outdoor recreation has an estimated annual value of $730 billion for the nation. The return on investment from protecting open space for public benefit is estimated to be 100 to one.

Nature is beneficial for mental health. In a study on outdoor environments and mental health, researchers found that natural outdoor environments were statistically significantly tied to better mental health. An analysis of 952 studies found that 98 percent showed improved mental health outcomes. A team of Australian researchers found that improved mental health from visits to national parks worldwide has a value of around $6 trillion.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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