Yesterday President Donald Trump donated his first three months of salary to the National Park Service, making good on a campaign promise to donate his $400,000 annual salary. The National Park Service is run by the Department of Interior, under Secretary Ryan Zinke, who said he was thrilled with the $78,333 check and would use the cash to maintain historic battlefields in the U.S.
Sure, Donald Trump’s budget proposed a $1.5 billion slash for the Department of Interior, and there are $12.5 billion of maintenace and repair projects needed now that pale in comparison to $78,333. But as a PR move, it is money well spent. Few things in America are as popular as our National Parks. In 2015, over 300 million people visited a National Park, a trend that continued into 2016, with a total of 306 million forecasted to have visited last year. To compare, in 2010, National Parks got 281 million visitors.
Some of the top parks for tourists included the Grand Canyon, with nearly 6 million visitors per year, and Yosemite, which got roughly 5 million people. Other, lesser-known parks still got plenty of visitors, including the Arches National Park in Utah, scoring 1.5 million tourists, and Death Valley near California, where 1.2 million people experienced its vast sand dunes.
In terms of raw cash intake, tourists spent $16.9 billion at our National Parks in 2015, a trend that’s steadily building, from $14.7 billion spent in 2012 and $15.7 billion in 2014. They remain an essential part of the country’s revenue: Our Parks generated $32 billion toward our economy.
Looking forward to 2017, National Parks are a top tourist destination, with 58 percent of respondents to a survey saying they’d vacation at a National Park over a beach (36 percent) or a river/lake (35 percent).
Our National Parks are part of our national heritage, and visitor statistics show that their popularity is only growing. Trump was smart to donate part of his salary to the NPS. Now, if he’ll only do something about that $12.5 billion backlog.