We all know the Republicans have no respect for the environment. They would rather deny global warming exists than impose environmental regulations. They regularly cede ground to energy companies in exchange for political support. And they want to drill, baby, drill into our nation’s natural beauty to help build up oil reserves.
That is part and parcel of their political thinking. Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, however, is taking his party’s war on trees, greens and nature one step further: he suggested last month that the U.S. should start selling off its national parks.
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.
Before I lambast Stearns’ complete disregard for our nation’s future generations, let’s get this out of the way: the national park system was founded by Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican. While the party’s alliances and ideologies have shifted since the late-19th century, they frequently invoke past presidents to bolster their contemporary standings, as they do with Abe Lincoln, so Stearns is breaking that golden GOP rule: never trash a party peer. But, you know, Teddy has been dead for 93 years, so I’m sure he doesn’t mind. Unless he runs into Ronald Reagan in heaven, or something.
Anyway, back to a more potent point: Stearns is suggesting we sell off national parks, a reserved space through which millions of Americans, many of whom live in urban spaces, can enjoy some unadulterated nature. That is a gift for citizens and tourists alike. Would Stearns rather turn them into their polar opposite, an industrial park? Plus, as ThinkProgress notes, the national park system employs over 250,000 jobs from coast-to-coast:
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.
So, Mr. Stearns, do you still think we should sell off these pristine parks to make more money for wars and the such? Or are you simply intimidated by Old Faithful?