More Rumblings of National Park Privatization

Interior Secretary Zinke likes idea of privatizing NPS campgrounds

There’s still a great deal up in the air about how the National Park Service will be operated under the current presidential administration, but if recent comments by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are any indication, more privatization may be on the way.

In a speech before the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association two weeks ago, Zinke made clear that he feels private companies would do a better job managing NPS campgrounds than the current NPS staff does. Zinke cited the backlog in maintenance (estimated at over $11 billion) for NPS parks as evidence that reducing the burden of things like campground maintenance by awarding concessionaire contracts for control of campgrounds would be good for the NPS.

Whether that would be good for NPS visitors or not remains to be seen, though Zinke clearly thinks it would: “My folks will never be as good [at managing campgrounds] as you are,” he told the assembled RV industry insiders.

What that privatized management might look like is anybody’s guess, but Derrick Crandall, a representative for the National Parks Hospitality Association, a trade group that represents concessionaires for the NPS, offered a very urban and RV-congested vision for what many hope remain wild places. Crandall explained that updated, privatized campgrounds in NPS parks might feature abundant wi-fi, lots more pavement for RVs, and the introduction of—hope you’re sitting down—food trucks.

Of course, Zinke recently expressed support for the White House’s budget proposal, which strips tens of millions of dollars in funding for the NPS. Funding that could ease the maintenance shortfalls without allowing more private control over public lands.

From Zinke and Crandall’s statements, it appears that they feel federal funding is bad for public lands, but more wi-fi and idling food trucks are good.

Photo by Joey Maloney

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Showing 9 comments
  • Free Loader

    How nice of Mr. ZInke to cut the legs out from under his own employees …

    • Leonard

      yea…what a leader…

  • thomas

    Mr. Zinke is totally unqualified for his job and is a threat to the NPS. Most of his poisonous ideas verge on treason and any rational president would spit on him. He is a shameful idiot and by no means should make policy for anything.

  • Steven

    Blaming the NPS for getting behind on $11b of maintenance is crazy when the only reason they are behind is because the government won’t I’ve them the money to pay for it.

    So national park campgrounds will become more like the over developed Yosemite Valley? What a joke. I’m all for better online booking systems for the campgrounds, but more catering to RV’s and food trucks … really??

  • Kim

    Zinke’s “plan” is horrid at best. Yes, the real reason for an $11 billion backlog of maintenance is due to Congress not funding the NPS and that’s despicable!! Zinke is another right wing hack wanting to rape and pillage our national heritage for some short term bucks. We must stand up and fight back!

  • Leonard

    he’s an ex swab..maybe the Navy should be privatized…anyone who has been in the service will tell you how wasteful it is.

    • G.G.S.

      Shh “Fat “Leonard. Don’t tell people the Navy is a fine example of corruption in contracting out what should be government functions to private companies. Those companies then compelled to compete to see who can out corrupt politicians and people with contract authority. Obviously Secretary of Interior Zinke learned from the best.

  • CK

    I’m not sure we should be asking for non-users of the parks to subsidize users of the parks for specific services like camping. I can see that the general American public should pay, via taxes, for preservation of the land, including such things as rangers tasked with that preservation. I’m not a ranger but I am guessing they wouldn’t be all that disappointed if Zinke pulled them off campground maid/nanny duties in favor of actual rangering (the change would give them legs, not cut them off)

    It seems reasonable that folks using specific services to pay for those services based on a for profit model. This would not be unlike the military base BX model – USG ensures the space is available but the BX itself has to operate for profit. Put dislike for the guy aside, is that really a bad concept?

  • Tom Gorton

    Fracking, drilling and mining will be next in the National Parks and Federal lands, Trump is all for that, Nazi that he is. Zinke, Trump, Pruitt, Sessions and Perry are all backing their fossil fuel CEO pigs at the expense of all that’s good about America, the planet and civilization.

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