OPINION: Trump Budget Subsidizing Private Hotel Owners?

By Aaron Weiss

The Center for Western Priorities has released a new analysis of the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog, revealing hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance that should be the responsibility of private hotel owners and concessionaires, not taxpayers. That backlog of private maintenance costs could become a corporate windfall if President Trump’s budget proposal becomes law.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel has $31 million in critical maintenance needs. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Investing in our national parks is critical, but the president’s budget blueprint uses an inflated and misleading maintenance backlog figure as an excuse to defund the rest of our public lands. The NPS maintenance backlog, which, while adding up to nearly $12 billion on paper, actually contains around $1.3 billion in priority park maintenance projects, according to a recent investigation by the Center for American Progress.

“The ‘skinny budget’ is a double giveaway,” said Aaron Weiss, media director at the Center for Western Priorities. “If President Trump gets anything close to his budget wishes, he will clear the way for trophy homes inside our national parks, while sending money instead to private hotel owners who ought to be paying for their own deferred maintenance projects.”

Trump’s budget proposal calls for slashing funds for land acquisition programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund by $120 million. LWCF, which is widely known as America’s most important parks program, is the only way for owners of “inholdings” within our national parks to sell their land to the American people, making our parks and public lands whole.

CWP’s analysis of the maintenance backlog found nearly 5,000 line items for deferred private maintenance across 72 national park system units, adding up to $389 million in deferred maintenance that is, according to park concessionaire contracts, supposed to be performed by the concessionaire.

At Yosemite alone, the main building of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel) has $31 million in critical maintenance needs — more than half of the critical backlog at the entire park.

The top 10 parks with deferred private maintenance include:

An embeddable map of all 72 park units with deferred private maintenance is available online.

For more information, visit westernpriorities.org.

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