Republican Congressman Wants to 'Sell Off Some of Our National Parks'

Mount St. Nicholas in Glacier National Park. Rep. Cliff Stearns recently expressed the view that the United States should sell some of its national parks. (Photo: National Park Service)

Republican Congressman Wants to 'Sell Off Some of Our National Parks'

A video showing Rep. Cliff Stearns (R, Florida) announcing his desire to "sell off some of our national parks" was recently filmed and released on the Internet by the Florida Political Action Cooperative.

In a speech given at a town hall meeting in Belleview Florida, Stearns explained his position.

I got attacked in a previous town meeting for not supporting another national park in this country, a 200-mile trailway. And I told the man that we don't need more national parks in this country, we need to actually sell off some of our national parks, and try and do what a normal family would do is -- they wouldn't ask Uncle Joe for a loan, they would sell their Cadillac, or they would take their kids out of private schools and put them into public schools to save to money instead of asking for their credit card to increase their debt ceiling.

Think Progress reports on the issue and notes the funds that US national parks bring into the treasury:

Our national parks represent America's heritage, held in trust from one generation to the next.

Despite Stearns' idea for a national-park fire sale, the facts show that parks, monuments, and other protected places generate a steady stream of wealth for both the treasury and local businesses. In 2010, Florida's Everglades National Park generated 2,364 jobs and over $140 million in visitor spending, and Florida's 11 national parks in total provided $582 million in economic benefits. The National Park Service also reports that America's parks overall created $31 billion and 258,000 jobs in 2010. In addition to their economic impacts, national parks have important value in that they are available to all of us for recreation, not just the wealthy few.

This is not the first time Republican members of Congress have advocated selling off Americans' public lands without clarifying how taxpayers would get a fair return for them. Last fall, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) proposed selling off 3.3 million acres of the public lands that belong to all of us. And former Rep. Richard Pombo proposed selling national parks to mining companies in 2005.

Republican presidential candidates have also recently been confused about the tangible and intangible values of our national parks and public lands. Mitt Romney told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he doesn't know "what the purpose is" of public lands, Rick Santorum told Idahoans that public lands should go "back to the hands" of the private sector, and Ron Paul advocated for public lands to be turned over to the states.

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