Making National Parks into State Parks
The kabuki dance of federal government shutdowns is familiar and absurd. Because the left wishes to make Americans suffer when the federal government closes operations, it deliberately prevents inexpensive programs like the National Park Service from providing ordinary Americans with the blessings of our natural treasures.
Republicans can respond to this by demanding that national parks be transferred, along with the cost of maintaining those parks, to any state governments that wish to have them. This transfer could provide the same protections which currently exist in the use of the land, but the duty to care for the parks, the cost of providing staff, and the fees charged for entrance to the parks could be devolved to state governments. This transfer of national parks to states could apply to national monuments and similar noteworthy preserves.
Because the closure of national parks and national monuments directly affects the tourism dollars that flow into states, it is highly unlikely that any state government would ever close a state park that had been devolved to Congress. In fact, many of this parks and monuments could probably, in a pinch, be manned by volunteers who love the history and the natural beauty of their state.
Some of these national parks stretch across state lines, but this ought not to be a problem: Congress can allow states to form interstate compacts, and this is a perfect example of a good use of that constitutional provision. All states involved in such a compact would have a strong vested interest in amicable and smooth coordination.
In some cases, where state parks and national parks are contiguous, devolving ownership of the national park to state governments would actually reduce redundancies and make the operation of the new and bigger state park more efficient.
Those park rangers in national parks, as part of this transfer, could be given jobs of comparable grade in the state park system. The federal administrators in Washington, of course, would no longer be needed. This would mean that the overall cost to government -- federal and state -- of operating the parks' systems would drop without any cost to those park rangers actually doing work in the parks.
In some cases, private foundations might be willing to assume the financial responsibility of maintaining monuments and historic sites. Beyond that, funds set up specifically to maintain or restore historic monuments or sites might well be funded by the voluntary and modest contributions of millions of ordinary Americans.
President Reagan, when he asked Americans three decades ago to make donations to restore the Statue of Liberty, insisted that only private funds be used. He was trying to make a point. He did. On July 3, 1986, a privately funded project to restore Lady Liberty was completed on time. President Reagan had stated that he would open the monument on July 4, 1986. It opened on that day, and Reagan gave a short but moving speech about the greatness of America and our liberty.
The foundation established to make the renovations raised from the pockets of American citizens $600 million. This private organization then turned its attention to restoring Ellis Island, again without a penny of federal money. This project was completed two years ahead of time in September 1990.
The Statue of Liberty is now closed because of the "government shutdown." Why has Obama not done what Reagan did and asked ordinary Americans to send in a few dollars to a private organization to keep this important symbol of our nation open?
We all know the answer. Obama, and the left, wish to pretend that everything in public life must be paid out of public funds, and specifically the federal treasury. What if the Statue of Liberty were given to New York? As bad as state government is in Albany, does anyone think for a moment that the State of New York would close down this national treasure in the harbor of New York City?
Even California, whose budget crisis is as bad as the federal government but which cannot print dollars, last August found the money to keep state funds (along with local government and private foundation funds), which prompted Ruth Coleman, director of the California park system, to comment: "We have re-energized the people who love parks, and they are stepping up and contributing to parks in all sorts of ways."
Republicans ought to push back on the closure of national parks by proposing a way to keep those parks open regardless of what mayhappen in future federal budget or debt ceiling battles. If the federal government cannot afford to keep parks open, why not transfer those parks to governments or organizations which will guarantee that none of these parks or places ever closes because of funding issues? The left has no good answer to that question, because it is power and control, not the happiness of average Americans, that is its sole aim.