Commentary: DENVER—The Trump administration released its long-awaited infrastructure plan, as well as its proposed budget for FY2019. In response, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:
“The Trump administration just landed a one-two punch on our national parks and public lands. The president’s infrastructure plan would facilitate the privatization of entire national parks, opening the door to an outright sell-off of America’s public lands.
“At the same time, President Trump and Secretary Zinke want to cut the Interior Department to the bone, slashing the budget by 16 percent. It’s clear Secretary Zinke has no interest in managing our public lands for future generations, just an interest in being a rubber stamp for drilling and mining.”
Page 19 of the Trump administration infrastructure proposal identifies two National Park Service units for privatization — the George Washington Parkway and Baltimore Washington Parkway — while giving agencies the authority to divest of additional assets. The only requirement for selling off public lands, that agencies “demonstrate an increase in value from the sale” that would “optimize the taxpayer value for Federal assets,” would pave the way for large-scale disposal of America’s parks.
Selling national parks is not far-fetched, as libertarian and free-market groups have proposed franchising national parks and putting a moratorium on establishing new national parks, claiming a bad return for taxpayers. The 2016 GOP platform explicitly called for the disposal of national public lands.