National parks bring in lots of money but they don't get to control how it's spent. Private companies are the main beneficiaries of tourist traffic, and for the most part they have free rein over how to spend the tourist gold.
Yellowstone National Park, for example, Congress appropriated $17.9
million to the park for all expenses during the recently completed
fiscal year. In this same period, the park brought in $3.8 million
through entrance fees and $370,000 through camping fees, but this
money passed right through to the federal Land and Water
Conservation Fund. For more than a decade most of the fund has gone
to reduce the federal deficit instead of to purchase inholdings and
other land worthy of preservation.
concessionaires operating within Yellowstone, they grossed more
than $61 million - nearly four times the park's annual budget. They
spent $7.3 million last year in the park, mostly on building
maintenance. The half-million dollars concessionaires paid in
franchise fees went straight to the Treasury.
over the course of a year in which money-generating activites in
the park totaled more than $66 million, not a cent landed in