by James Beers
*A Letter to the Wall Street Journal and to Shawn Regan (PERC, Bozeman, Montana) about his 25 April Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled, National Parks: Lost in the Wilds of Neglect.
Shawn Regan is to be commended for his description of the irresolvable and increasing maintenance backlog throughout the National Park System. The same is true of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the National Forests and the Bureau of Land Management real estate. His recommendations of stopping acquisition; selling land to generate revenue for maintenance backlogs; keeping park revenues locally; turning to the private economy to tackle infrastructure and operations problems; and creating a franchising system for new parks are each and all sound and needed actions for all four large federal land ownerships.
We must keep in mind one hidden cost however; the cost hidden by the federal bureaucrats from the public for decades. Concessionaires on these federal estates are mostly long-established and entrenched businesses operating under government agreements and contracts. Over time, Concession improvements, facilities and other real property have been provided by the concessionaires. Such real property remains the property of the concessionaires that use that as a reason to remain the concession operators although the illusion has been that of federal bureaucracy providing them.
Close the Park (or Refuge or Forest et al) and the concessionaire can sue for return of or reimbursement of the property and values “donated” over the years. The costs of this on these federal properties subject to Mr. Regan’s badly needed (for more reasons than maintenance) prescriptions will present the Congress with an enormous bill and lawsuits that will significantly diminish the hoped-for revenue to “tackle” maintenance and operations on remaining landholdings.
Former Chief of Refuge Operations, USFWS, Washington, DC
25 April 2016