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Celebrate National Park Service’s Birthday With Its 7 Weirdest Projects

by Thomas Phippen

The National Park Service (NPS) celebrated 100 years of operation Aug. 25. Managing more than 84 million acres of some of the most beautiful land in America, the NPS receives most of its funding from federal coffers.

In 2015, NPS got over $1 billion of taxpayer money, and President Barack Obama has made NPS funding a priority.

“The President has taken unprecedented action to invest in America’s natural resources, to protect our public lands and to help ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to experience our nation’s unparalleled national parks, monuments, forests and other public lands,” the White House said earlier this summer. “It’s the right thing to do for our environment and for our economy.”

The agency has been plagued with corruption and mismanagement. There’s a $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects waiting to be funded. (RELATED: At 100 Years, National Parks Plagued By ‘Exacerbating Corruption’ And A $12 Billion Backlog)

Managing millions of acres is a tough job, and an important one, since Americans love their national parks — more than 307 million people visited a national park this year alone.

Unfortunately, some of the research and outreach projects that NPS funds leave many scratching their heads:

  1. To engage troubled youths and promote parks, NPS paid $28,000 for New Light Under The Surface, a project that takes at-risk youths on a “photographic expedition which will empower troubled teens to engage in underwater photographic journeys of self-expression within the national parks.”
  2. Two grants, totaling $500,000, will bring school kids out to parks with a nature-themed mascot. The Buddy Bison Program and Kids to Parks Day provides“outdoor educational and recreational activities to youth from underserved and low socio-economic schools and communities.”
  3. NPS wants to know why black Americans don’t visit parks as often as white people. It’s giving out $100,000 for the Diversity in Partnerships Research and Development, in order to research and correct the lack of diversity among park visitors. “Of the many challenges facing the NPS in the 21st century, the lack of ethnic and racial diversity among the visiting population may be the most critical,” according to the grant announcement. (RELATED: Govt Spends $100K To Figure Out Why Black People Don’t Go To Parks)
  4. In an effort to preserve national heritage, NPS often researches American Indian culture. To study Inuit culture in Alaska, NPS gave out $160,000 for a research project called Knowledge, Experience and Beliefs of the Supernatural Environment, which is meant to “document contemporary beliefs, knowledge and experiences regarding the supernatural.”
  5. Human-made lighting is everywhere, so NPS gave out $65,473 to study the effects of light on insects that otherwise only use sunlight. They will likely discover that moths fly towards lightbulbs.
  6. Artists regularly visit national parks to paint the natural landscape. So, in order to attract more people to the park, NPS gave out $48,000 to create a “series of videos highlighting opportunities for the public to experience and create art in national parks.”
  7. Capitalizing on “gamification” and the fact that millennials are always on their phones, NPS spent $61,013 on the Listen, Feel, and Learn App Research Project. The goal is to develop a mobile game that “will teach users what sound is and its importance in the natural landscape, how to identify sounds, how sounds interact with each other, and how to protect sound.”

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