Nov 4, 2019

Trump administration mulls privatizing national park campgrounds

Yellowstone national park entrance

Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If the Trump administration has its way, our national parks may be set for a major overhaul that's much broader than just electric bikes on trails.

Driving the news: "At the urging of a controversial team of advisors, the Trump administration is mulling proposals to privatize national park campgrounds and further commercialize the parks with expanded Wi-Fi service, food trucks and even Amazon deliveries at tourist camp sites," the LA Times reports.

  • One proposal would phase out senior discounts during peak seasons.

Why it matters: The U.S. National Park Service is nearly $12 billion in the hole on necessary repairs that largely pre-date the Trump administration, according to Pew Trust.

The big picture: “Since taking office, President Trump and his administration have sought to privatize an array of public services," per the LA Times.

  • "At the same time, the White House has sought to reduce spending for many public services, such as its plan to cut the National Park Service’s budget by $481 million in 2020."
  • The committee's pitch for privatization: “There is also broad consensus that the current national park campground system, largely operated by federal employees, combines inadequate and outmoded visitor infrastructure," The Hill reports.

Between the lines: Many members of the committee, which was created by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, would potentially benefit from privatization, the Washington Post previously reported.

  • Members include the operators of concession companies that have contracts at the parks, a company that produces electric bicycles and the former president of the world's largest private campground.

The bottom line: This might not have the edge of an impeachment fight, but any time the outdoors lobby and AARP are at potential loggerheads, look out.

Go deeper