Preservation and the Public: An Exploratory Examination of the National Park Service

Open Access
Griffith, Jessica Greer Mary
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Economics and History
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • David Shapiro, Thesis Supervisor
  • Bee Yan Roberts, Honors Advisor
  • National Park Service
  • Economics
  • parks
The National Park Service (NPS) of the United States of America oversees and protects more than 390 units, of which 58 are national parks. This thesis explores the theories of preservation and public interests as two spheres that possess differing perspectives in relation to these national park units. I argue that these two spheres have a significant impact on the current and future state of the National Park Service, as well as put forward suggestions for improvement and arguments for increased efforts in each area. Due to conflicting objectives and limited funding, the interests of the public and preservation sectors frequently compete for attention and resources. In this thesis, I analyze economic theory behind the National Park Service’s balance of power between these two areas, as well as explore how funding and policies reflect the shifting priorities and focus of the NPS. To further this study, I include analyses of the budget of the National Park Service and of the economic worth of national park sites. My intention is to provide readers with an understanding of the wants and conflicting goals of the preservation and public spheres in regards to the National Park Service, as well as put forward suggestions for alternative sources of funding that could help create further balance and cooperation between public and preservation interests. I argue that it is possible to protect NPS units and to ensure that the public of today and of future generations have open access to these sites.