National Park

Senators seek more staff at national parks amid visitation records

Senators said they believe a good staffing level would be 23,000 full-time equivalent positions.

BAR HARBOUR, Maine — The independent senator from Maine and a colleague from Montana want more staff at U.S. national parks to keep up with increased visitation.

Senators Angus King of Maine and Steve Daines of Montana said visitation and workload have increased in the parks system, but job numbers have not kept pace. They said park staff had been steadily declining over the past decade.

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King and Daines told Senate Appropriations Committee leaders that a good staffing level would be 23,000 full-time equivalent positions. That figure was 18,567 for fiscal year 2020, the senators said.

The senators said the increased staffing was needed at a time when “many of the nation’s most popular parks are steadily setting attendance records through 2021.”

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Nearly two years into a pandemic that forced authorities to enact various social and travel restrictions, Americans with cabin fever have flocked to national parks across the country in record numbers.

According to the National Park Service, after a slump in 2020, Yellowstone saw more than 4.86 million visits in 2021, making it the busiest year on record. Other parks like Zion, Glacier and Canyonland also broke previous records.

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But employment figures have not kept up with the tourism boom. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, while visitation has increased by 16% over the past decade, the total number of national park staff has decreased by 14%.

The association said this decrease in the shortage is due to various budget cuts in recent years.