No, PERC Did Not Call for the “End of National Parks”


Liberal news sites are falsely implying that a Montana based think tank is calling for an “end to national parks” after its executive director and a research assistant published an op-ed in The New York Times that discussed problems within the national park system.

The op-ed — entitled “Let’s Fix Our National Parks, Not Add More” — was penned by executive director Reed Watson and research assistant Scott Wilson of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). The piece argued that Congress should stop expanding national park land, use money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to fund a backlog of deferred maintenance at national parks rather than using the money to acquire more federal land, and give federal land agencies more control over user fees at individual sites.

“First, Congress should stop acquiring more land and use the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help pay down the deferred maintenance backlog,” states the op-ed. “Second, Congress should renew and expand the authority of federal land agencies that oversee our parks, forests and rangelands to charge user fees and allow those fees to be used at the locations where they were collected.”

Watson and Wilson pointed out that the National Park Service announced an $11.5 billion backlog of deferred maintenance earlier this year and its parent department — the Dept. of the Interior — had announced a maintenance backlog of somewhere between $13 billion and $19 billion. Despite the maintenance backlog, the Obama administration keeps adding new national park land spreading already thin budgets even thinner.

Despite the relatively straight forward arguments put forward by Watson and Wilson, left-wing activists and news outlets seized on the piece implying that PERC was calling for an actual end to national parks. A headline at far left website, Daily Kos, blared: “Koch backed group calls for end of national parks.” An similar article on another far left website Think Progress led with “the Koch brothers are rolling out their latest campaign against these treasured places: pushing for no more national parks.” Occupy Democrats went completely off the reservation, declaring “Koch Brothers Launch Plot to Privatize and Buy National Parks for Drilling.”

PERC is a Bozeman-based think tank that focuses on improving environmental quality through property rights and markets rather than government regulation. The organization has drawn the ire of liberal activists because it consistently criticizes federal land management policies in the western United States.

Both the Daily Kos and Think Progress attempt to place the PERC op-ed within a narrative currently being pushed by liberal activists which claims that there is a conservative plot to privatize or “sell off” federally managed public lands. As frustration has grown across the West with federal land management policies, a movement has sprung up in several states calling on the federal government to transfer control of certain federal multiple-use lands to the states.

However, opponents see the transfer idea as unconstitutional, unfeasible, and a kind of “trojan horse” for the sell-off of public lands to private interests.

The articles cited a 1999 PERC paper published in conjunction with the national Cato Institute that explored how and why the federal government should look at divesting itself — mostly through privatization — of its massive landholdings in the American West.

They also attempt to discredit PERC by pointing out that the think tank has received funding — slightly less than $200,0000 from 1997-2011 according the liberal — from foundations with ties to the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

Media Trackers Montana is a conservative non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting accountability in the media and government. Read more at Follow Media Trackers on Twitter @mediatrackersmt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *