The call for privatizing national park campgrounds is getting louder. Last week, the Trump administration’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. He told attendees, “I don’t want to be in the business of running campgrounds. My folks will never be as good as you are.”
According to E&E News, a media source focused on energy and the environment, Zinke wants to help the National Park Service budget partly by outsourcing. He wants more campground management roles, transportation and telecommunications functions given to private industry contractors. “We are going to have more public-private partnerships soon. I think that’s where the industry should be going,” Zinke told RVIA attendees at the special luncheon. The interior secretary stressed that the RV park industry “knows the market better.” He wants private industry should have more of a role in America’s National Parks.
NPS shortfall could lead to more outsourcing.
Outsourcing to privately-owned businesses is nothing new in public parks. Concessionaire companies oversee many campgrounds throughout the National Park System. As their role has increased, the top four concessionaires in America’s national parks have given over $500,000 to politicians since 2010, according to the Center for American Progress.
If Congress approves the Trump administration’s budget request for the Interior Department, concessionaires could manage even more functions. The National Park Service (NPS) could be forced to obtain outside help in many new areas. The Interior Department budget request would slash $360 million from the National Parks Service. It would cut about 1,242 full-time positions, according to the NPS.
“At this funding level, nearly 90 percent of parks would reduce their current staffing levels, leading to a reduction in services to the public. Likewise, support programs would also experience staffing and service level reductions, which further impacts parks,” writes the NPS in its 498-page 2018 Budget Justifications document. It goes on to explain that, “To further reduce costs, the NPS would utilize various strategies on a park-by-park basis, which may include limiting the use of or closing certain areas, such as campgrounds and facilities, and reducing, adjusting, or eliminating hours of operations and visitor services in times of low visitation.”
Privatizing national park campgrounds and more?
The U.S. Forest Service and many other state-owned parks are currently leading the way in park privatization. For example, last year the state of Alaska outsourced all operations of four Valdez-area state parks. In Idaho, nearly 200 acres of Redfish Lake Recreation Area is leased to a private company, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Some people believe outsourcing to private industry sounds like a good plan. But many opponents decry the move. In the iRV2 Forums community, going beyond concessionaire campgrounds and privatizing federal public lands is a hot topic. Forums member Twinbridges writes:
“We are the stewards of these lands, and it is our responsibility to protect them for future generations. We do not need and must not see them as some expedite solution for profit.”
However iRV2 member Woodlandhill shares another viewpoint:
“With fees set at the proper level, the owners can keep the lower classes from trashing everything in sight by making it too pricey for them to enter. And use the money to make massive improvements, like more RV parks, higher quality hotels and restaurants, more shopping without driving miles to some ‘park boundary’.”
Concessionaires in parks have a unique arrangement that differs from other privately-owned for-profit businesses. American taxpayers currently pay for maintenance on many of the buildings and infrastructure in concessionaire-operated locations. “Concessionaires are quietly reaping the benefits of operating in national parks without fully absorbing the costs,” explains the the Center for American Progress. “Concessionaires, not taxpayers, must be responsible for the maintenance of the facilities in which they make billions of dollars each year.”
In the coming weeks, the future of privatizing national park campgrounds could be revealed to the American public.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
I have to ask why do we have campgrounds? For profit or so people can experience the wilderness and nature which humans have been a part of for a long time,
How Long Have Humans Been On Earth? While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s.
I say if you can privatize parts of what’s left of our natural world for a wilderness experience, ok. For profit motive, ” no” not a good idea. I don’t think privatizing the Wilderness solely for a profit motive won’t work and would eventually destroy the environment and natural world that’s been around for millions of years.
One problem is our public lands such as the Natural Forests and Parks are basically all ready privatized. Even though the private logging and other types of companies don’t hold the deeds for these land they do control the public lands for profit. (Some do hold mineral rights for different types of lands.)
Don’t be fooled into thinking your National Forests and National Parks are controlled by the government. These lands in part are very much controlled by private corporations that have accumulated and acquired much of these private lands through homesteading.
These companies that actually control the areas that these public lands exist, spending millions of dollars on lobbyists back east to control the laws that govern these “public” lands set aside for the people. Some of these companies spend millions on lawyers and law firms to actually right land use and laws that govern natural resources.
They have control over the communities and in part the people working for the government in junction with these public land areas.
Many of the public lands homesteaded, given to private families if the land was worked for ~5 years. Working the land often involved logging the forests. Many of these families eventually sold their homestead claimed lands while others purchased homestead lands for a very cheap price per acre.
One reason much of privately owned lands and forests surrounding public lands are currently owned by large corporations, many of which are multinational corps, is the original families purchased much of our public lands and forests from people who eventually sold the land of their homestead claims as they could not work the land. Typically public lands were sold for less than 50 cent to a dollar an acre.
Today we see public camping areas in the US however even though you may not be aware, these public areas are essentially controlled by private organizations and corporations.
A privatized organizations, business or corporation is “allowed” to operate in these so called public and private campgrounds. Which IMO are already, (not officially), controlled privately.
Privatization verys from one area to another depending on which natural resources are involved.
The government is just giving in to privatization becauses it make their job easier and often for the most part these people working for the government don’t really care what happens to these public lands. IMO, There are those working for the government and the private sector who would prefer our public lands be given to people who can use public lands for a profit.
Sort like what has happened with real estate in the US, which has become similar to a stock. Real estate hasn’t necessarily become a place to live and raise a family as it’s become a thing to profit from.
Samuel Crabtree says
Yes, in many instances this “privatization” does make it easier for government. But think that statement through. If it is easier for government there will not be as much overtime or hiring of additional government employees. And THAT means, at least, a smaller federal budget deficit – and lower taxes if the government ever gets out of the red.
That said – I am not in favor of government turning over land to private interests.
At present I am camping at Brannan Island State Recreation Area. It is owned by the State of California. But I had to make reservations through a private company. I think that the operation of the facility is also performed by a private agency. The “I think” in the last sentence means that I’m not sure. And if I’m not sure it means that quality operation isn’t the sole property of government or private. IF the State has sold the operation to a private company it means that the State (the public) is making money rather than having the burden of costs. And the users get the ammenities that the private company provides. It is a fact that government finds it much easier, usually, to require private companies provide services that the government can’t or won’t.
Charles Peckham says
I’m with ya Albert.
dave smith says
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.
And greed, you mark my words, will save the malfunctioning corporation called the United States.
I will have to disagree with you. Greed is an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.
Our country the USA doesn’t exist because of greed. The United States exists because of our generosity, honor, friendship and respect for others. We exist despite greed as those that become greedy eventually fall prey to all it’s downfalls of human existence that it creates.
Preamble to the United States Constitution
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Thomas Seim says
What is good is competition; bad companies go away and good ones thrive. The US government has been doing this for a long time in other areas quite successfully. I worked for a company that operated a government owned national laboratory and they did – and are doing – a very good job. Canada and Germany have privatized their air traffic control – very successfully. State parks are now being managed by private corporations. Example: Anastasia State Park in Florida. Let’s face it: government is not very good at running anything. That is because we can’t fire bureaucrats, they just keep blundering along.
David Gearhart says
This is being done for PROFIT, no more , no less. Just like Charter (Private ) schools, and Privately owned Prisons . And the Republican push to Privatize the Postal System, Air Controllers, etc. Not for the good of the people, but FOR PROFIT. When the majority of business and and servces, and newspapers are in the hands of THE FEW, it just widens the gap between the Haves and the Have Nots, and kills more of the dwindling Middle Class. Be assured : If all of these things are privatized, it will not be YOU who will buy them, it will those who already own most of our country ! And it WILL NOT make taxes go down, but make more people part time and minimum wage earners. Trump and his rich buddies will profit, YOU will lose ! ! !
Thomas, are you confusing “good” with “profitable”? It is very profitable to log and mine, but it’s not necessarily good to do it in Parks, and if so, how widely should it be done? And what about other activities to do and allow? Don’t you want to make those sorts of decisions consciously rather than just let the market dictate on the basis of short-term profitability?
Also, I’m not sure that an attempt to compare park privatization to Canadian air traffic control is helpful here. NAV Canada is a non-share-capital not-for-profit and it’s Board of Directors has as many Government & Union appointees as it has from Aviation & Carriers. In both structure and role, its primary objective is to manage risk and cost.of air traffic. But Private Concessions in parks on the other hand, in America are likely to be For-profit traded or private corporations and their objective will be to make money. No comparison, really.
David Gearhart says
The one comment that ” all companies are in business for profit ” is the crux of this discussion. Our National Parks and Monuments are NOT businesses, they exist for the good of The American People ! To turn them into Profit Makers for Big Business would be Treason, no more, no less !
Kenneth Westlund says
To me this is not a question of greed but of good management. In my 30+ years working in and for the federal government, I have been involved in a number of projects to contract out of certain government functions. In certain cases it makes perfect sense to contract out support functions. After all we all know how difficult it is for the government to manage its primary functions let alone manage its support functions.
In my mind, the basic question is: is campground management a core or a support function of the Interior Department? If it is a core function, it should never be contracted out. If it is a support function, it should be subject to contract consideration, but not automatically contracted out.
A basic mission of the DOI is the management of our natural resources. In my mind an argument could be made that managing campgrounds falls in that core mission. Automatic data support, telecommunications support, and other support functions are should rightly be considered for contract.
However, if managing campgrounds is considered a support function, the question remains, “would it be better managed if it were contacted out?” And the term “better” should be evaluated based on who the department of Interior considers its customer not just the Department of Interior. In other words, better should primarily be defined by the customer it serves than by the operational interests of the Department.
Judas Iscariot says
Profit is good. Greed is good. Privatization is good. But maybe some things in this world should not be for sale. I once made a small fortune in silver for one kiss but ultimately lost everything because of it.
frank rush says
Maybe a good idea would be to give the government control of everything and see how that works out.
Perhaps the government would do a better job of controlling all aspects of life in the United States in the same way it has experience success running the US Postal Service.
When was the last time the US Postal Service saw a profit ? What freight carrier do you use when you ship something ? USPS, UPS, Fed Ex, Conway, etc… ?
Bill Orsborne says
People who want government to control more and more of their lives probably did not experience the liberation of the police states under the axis nations during the second world war. Seeing those people and the condition they were in after having lived in a government police state was unforgettable.
David Gearhart says
National Parks are one of America’s best features. NO ONE can tell me that converting them into National Trumparks for Profit will be one bit helpful. Exploiting timber and minerals is the objective of the Privitization Movement ,, NOT better services ! David
Tony Crago says
So the Trump regime is getting payoffs from the concessionaires to privatize the parks so the concessionaires can make more money. Does this surprise anyone? Trump is going to do whatever he can to make a buck and screw us, the environment, the parks, and anyone else who gets in his way. This is allegedly what America wanted so have at it.
I think I could only get on board with this if it were operated like a credit union – not for profit and with government oversight of some sort.
I don’t like the idea of some corporation making profits (and all that comes with that…. ridiculous CEO salaries, Board bonuses, etc.) off me driving through the park and staying a night or two.