Billion dollar corporate fund for our national parks. What do donors get in return?

Is the strategy, cut their budgets and make up the difference with a private “appropriation” from the self-interested, cutting out the public?

We all know the watchword in Washington has been cut, cut, cut the budgets of all the agencies that look out after the public interest under the guise that we have a terrible, terrible deficit crisis.

People are waking up to this, wondering why something like 1 % of of the population pays very low taxes compared to the rest of us, and it seems impossible to raise them even though a fair number of the 1% say they don’t need such low taxes and think the country could use the money.

The National Parks are about as popular a government program as exists, so it is hard to take them on directly and say “let’s make them into money machines for our corporation instead instead of scenic/conservation/adverture/wildlife reserves.”  However, unspecific budget cut orders apply to all programs, making them vulnerable no matter how valuable they are. In fact, the most valuable ones are often the first cut because the really wasteful programs often have a small, but powerful political interest group behind them operating in public obscurity.

With this in mind we should take seriously the warming from PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) “Creeping Corporatization of our National Parks. Summit Promoting a Billion Dollar Private Endowment for Parks.” Park Service leaders desperate for money had a summit August 2011 creating a billion dollar corporate-financed endowment outside the federal appropriation process. The summit was set up by the National Park Foundation, the fund raising arm of the NPS created by Congress to raise private money.  While we have a lot of billionaires nowadays, a billion bucks is a lot to the Park Service.

One of the big corporate players has been the soft drink/bottled water industry. According to the New York Times, one or more of corporations might have already collected on their investment regarding the continuation of the sale of bottled water in a Park where improper disposal of the plastic bottles is likely. Parks Chief Blocked Plan for Grand Canyon Bottle Ban. New York Times.  By Felicity Barringer.

Although we covered this bottled water story earlier, we now see it could be just the tip of the iceberg.



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  1. Nancy Avatar

    “Under the new policy, parks pursuing a ban must jump through a set of bureaucratic hoops, including –

    •Mandatory “consultation with NPS Public Health Office” even though NPS has yet to produce a scrap of evidence that plastic bottle bans have any demonstrated public health ramifications;
    •Annual surveys of “visitor satisfaction, buying behavior” and concessionaire “sales revenue”; and
    •Reports on “availability of BPA-free reusable containers.” Bisphenol A (BPA) is a compound used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins which is linked to health concerns”

    Makes ya wonder who’s pulling the strings here?

  2. Ken Cole Avatar

    Just imagine, pretty soon all the wildlife will be forced to wear Mickey Mouse ears.

    1. Salle Avatar

      And other conspicuously placed corporate logos.

  3. Salle Avatar

    In response to the original question for this thread:

    Here’s what they’re doing with higher ed. If this is any indication of just how insidious and intent these guys are in gaining absolute control (for the .001% mind you) over the world population. I think this falls under the category of Total Immersion or perhaps a scorched earth policy with regard to indoctrination of a once free society into one that is completely dominated, gotta catch that younger population so that all they know is what is given them, nothing more in order to squelch inquisitiveness.

    The parks serve not only as recreational monuments and wilderness preservation islands, they are also educational tools and and a big chunk of highly valued real estate in pristine form. Well, these guys plan on fixing that too, it appears.

  4. mikarooni Avatar

    “Is the strategy, cut their budgets and make up the difference with a private “appropriation” from the self-interested, cutting out the public?”

    The answer is, of course, yes; but, you leave out some steps. First, you and your mega-rich friends form this kind of slush fund for the parks and maybe take the opportunity to get it organized while you’re all together enjoying your time there in Davos. Second, your bought-and-paid-for right-wing politicians are instructed to claim that, since there is plenty of money for the parks coming from these slush funds, the federal NPS budget line can be cut, at least temporarily, to save money during these hard, high deficit, times. Once the federal NPS budget line has been cut and your bought-and-paid-for right-wing politicians are in place to see that taxes are never raised to re-instate that budget, you can then reduce your contribution to the parks and, when the parks start looking a bit ragged due to the underfunding, your bought-and-paid-for right-wing politicians can then suggest selling them.

    This is one reason why collaboration is not such a good idea. If it’s a snake, handle it as a snake.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. Mike Avatar

    Next thing you know, these corporations will be referred to as “stakeholders”, and then of course the actual owners of the parks will be shut out. We’ll hear much talk of “stakeholders at the table seeking common sense solutions”. Beware of that language. Here’s what it really means: “Industry owns this issue, get lost”.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan