WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- The nation's national parks and National Park Service have a total estimated economic value of $92 billion, a new study finds.
The study, conducted by Colorado State and Harvard universities, contends national parks and programs remain highly valuable, even if the public never actually visit the parks. Half of their value is based on Americans just knowing the parks are protected places.
Surveys have shown 95 percent of the American public said protecting national parks for future generations was important and 80 percent would pay higher federal taxes to ensure the protection and preservation of the National Park System, according to the National Park Foundation.
"This study demonstrates the enormous value that the public places in the work of the National Park Service, even beyond the iconic and incredible places in our care," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
The study was peer-reviewed and will be submitted for publication in academic journals, the National Park Foundation said. As part of the research, it analyzed proposed regulations, and quantified loss of natural resources from oil spills, among other factors
Different from other work that describe the economic benefit gained by communities near national parks, this new study puts a dollar value to national parks and National Park Service programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the National Natural Landmarks Program.
This study is part of a larger group of research determining of the value of the National Parks that quantify the value of ecosystem management, intellectual property creation, education and other aspects of value.
"Even though national parks are priceless public assets, it's important to estimate how much the American public would pay to protect them," said Professor Linda J. Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University and co-author of the study. "This study is a birthday wake-up call that shows Americans value the NPS at least 30 times more than the government spends on them."