Survey: in shutdown's wake, Americans want stronger protection for parks and public lands

Yosemite National Park, closed during the government shutdown.

Photo: National Parks Conservation Association Photos, flickr.

A new survey finds that the government shutdown reminded Americans of the importance of national parks and public lands.

Americans noticed the harmful effects of the recent government shutdown on their national parks and public lands—and most of them want stronger protection for those resources, not more budget cuts, according to new public opinion research conducted on behalf the Center for American Progress.

In the poll, which surveyed people who voted in the 2012 presidential election, an overwhelming majority of respondents (89%) said that the closing of national parks and other public lands during the shutdown was problematic. More than half said it was a “very” or “pretty big” problem. In a similar vein, most said that automatic, indiscriminate budget cuts triggered by the so-called "sequester" were too deep, and rejected the idea of further cutting spending on parks and public lands. 

See photos of national parks and public lands that need funding.

Some key numbers from the survey:

  • 82% felt that the closing of national parks during the shutdown was a good reminder of their importance and why they need to remain open.
  • 76% agreed that the shutdown took a serious economic toll in areas near affected national parks and other public lands.
  • 74% said Congress should not further cut federal spending on national parks and public lands as it seeks to reduce the deficit.
  • 70% said that Congress should find a way to prevent additional automatic spending cuts for national parks and other public lands from going into effect.
  • 65% believe that Congress should be establishing new parks and improving outdoor opportunities for Americans—not closing parks and slashing budgets.
  • 57% believe that parks and public lands were forced to close during the shutdown because of Congress’ inability to come to a budget agreement, versus 31%  who felt that parks were closed as a ploy to make the shutdown more painful.
  • 55% felt that the "sequester" cut too deeply into national park funding. A majority of voters in all regions polled felt this way.
  • 53% felt Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to protect national parks and public lands for future generations (19% felt that Republicans are doing enough).
  • 42% said that Democrats in Congress are not doing enough to protect national parks and public lands, either (28% said that they are).

In the long shadow of the shutdown, Americans are rediscovering the intrinsic value of the natural spaces they all own. However, they have also come to the realization that politicians in Washington are not doing enough to safeguard those special places, which are still chronically underfunded. Fortunately, you can do something about it.

Tell Congress that our wild lands are important.