After Western Values Project exposed a horrific proposal by an industry-laden advisory committee to privatize national park campgrounds, the National Parks Service Acting Director David Vela quietly announced that the administration has disbanded the committee. Numerous news reports revealed the Trump administration’s behind-the-scenes efforts to privatize America’s national parks.
“Privatizing America’s national parks is just the Trump administration’s latest attempt to sell out and sell off our outdoor heritage. But don’t be fooled — simply disbanding this industry-laden advisory committee doesn’t provide Americans with any assurances that the Trump administration won’t continue its pursuit of turning our national parks into amusement parks,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “Elected officials and members of Congress, especially from Western states, must demand that this special interest giveaway meets its rightful demise and ensure that it never happens again.”
Under Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s leadership, the “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee drafted a memo outlining changes to America’s national parks, including privatizing park campgrounds, rolling “blackout” dates for seniors, food trucks, delivery services, and fee increases. While the move would hurt working Americans, it would fill the pockets of Trump donors who stand to benefit from lucrative contracts.
While the panel has now been disbanded because of public outcry, the threat to America’s national parks persists — it remains unclear if the proposal to privatize national parks is still being considered. Acting National Parks Service Director (NPS) David Vela offered no commitments on whether the privatization proposal had been scrapped when pressed by reporters. Vela said that the park service is already working “to create a second-century campground experience that supports sound investment and management for campgrounds that may be enjoyed by all.”
Western officials including Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Martha McSally (R-AZ) have not expressed concern over the Trump administration’s latest privatization proposal. Senators in the West have a particular responsibility to ensure that national parks, campgrounds, and public lands are not jeopardized by the threat of privatization. Western Senators should start by passing full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and demanding that the Trump administration adheres to the constitution by nominating a confirmable director for NPS.