A group of eight senators and two representatives today introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that will use revenues from energy production on federal lands to help pay for the over $11 billion maintenance backlog at national parks.
The senators – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.), Angus King (I-Me.), Steve Daines (R-Mt.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) Joe Manchin (D- W.V.), Cory Gardner (R-Co.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Representatives Mike Simpson (R-Id.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Or.) have been working with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on the National Park Restoration Act, which will help restore and rebuild roads, buildings, campgrounds, trails and water systems in the country’s national parks for the next generation of visitors.
“This legislation will help address the over $11billion maintenance backlog at our national parks, including the $215 million backlog of projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” Senator Alexander said. “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures – and it has a tremendous economic impact in East Tennessee, attracting nearly twice the visitors of any other national park. Addressing the maintenance backlog will help attract even more visitors and create more jobs for Tennesseans. We must continue to work together to find solutions to the many challenges facing our public lands, and this legislation takes an important step toward doing that.”
“For more than a century, our national parks have inspired and amazed countless visitors,” said Senator King. “Unfortunately, these parks don’t take care of themselves – they need maintenance to ensure that future generations can experience the same wonder that so many Americans already have. This bill is a practical step to help clear the existing maintenance backlog, and protect these treasured lands for years to come.”
“Montanans are blessed to have America’s most beautiful national parks right outside our front doors,” said Senator Daines. “These critical economic drivers must be maintained and protected so that our outdoor economy can continue to grow and our parks remain accessible to all Montanans. This bipartisan bill is a commonsense step forward to ensure that the challenges facing our national parks are finally addressed.”
“From the ancient wonders in Chaco Culture National Historical Park and caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, our national parks in New Mexico offer endless opportunities to explore our nation's natural and historical treasures and fuel our thriving outdoor recreation economy,” said Senator Heinrich. “This legislation will address the maintenance backlog and invest in our Park Service infrastructure to ensure our national parks are safe and accessible to the millions of visitors from near and far who pass through their gates each year.”
“West Virginia is full of so much natural beauty, and it’s important that we continue to care for and preserve the incredible natural resources and attractions across the state. Unfortunately, West Virginia’s national parks have $52 million worth of backlogged maintenance,” Senator Capito said. “This bill will provide funding to help preserve the culture and history of parks like Harpers Ferry and the New River Gorge National River, and it will help ensure West Virginians and visitors from across the country can enjoy them for generations to come. I appreciate President Trump and Secretary Zinke making this issue a priority and will continue working with the administration, Senator Alexander, and our colleagues resolve the national parks backlog. This bill is the first step in doing that.”
“Our National Parks have been a source of pride for more than a century, however this has come at a cost and today the Park Service Deferred Maintenance backlog is more than $10 billion dollars, including $64 million in West Virginia,” said Senator Manchin. “This impacts visitor services at some of the most spectacular places in our state. I look forward to working with the Administration, Senator Alexander, and all of the cosponsors to pass this bipartisan bill so our grandchildren can enjoy these treasured places for another one hundred years.”
“Coloradans know firsthand how important it is to make timely investments and infrastructure upgrades to our parks,” said Senator Gardner. “This bipartisan legislation provides the funding necessary to help address the billions of dollars in deferred maintenance that the park system is currently facing in Colorado and across the country. It’s time to show our love to our beloved national parks.”
“America was blessed with stunning landscapes that attract visitors from all over the world and add substantial economic and cultural value in regions like Western North Carolina,” said Senator Tillis. “We must actively work to rebuild and improve our National Parks, including the $215 million backlog in the Great Smoky Mountains and $35 million outstanding obligations to rebuild a road in Swain County that was destroyed in 1943. I want to thank Senator Alexander for taking an active lead to tackle deferred maintenance projects across the country and in the National Park our states share.”
“As someone who loves public lands and our National Parks, I am thrilled to be standing here today with Senator Alexander, Senator King, Congressman Schrader, and Secretary Zinke to propose a solution to fixing the backlog maintenance,” said Representative Simpson. “Growing up in Yellowstone’s backyard, it is important that we pay it forward to future visitors that deserve the same quality experience as past generations. There are many people who deserve credit for bringing this issue to the forefront and I look forward to working with them to advance legislation that fixes our Parks.”
“Oregonians have a genuine appreciation for the outdoors and our National Parks and recreation areas,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader. “Our ability to enjoy and appreciate that natural beauty is limited when upkeep on our federal lands isn’t sufficiently funded allowing critical maintenance to fall by the wayside. Not only does that impact our enjoyment of the land, but it poses serious risks to the protection of these areas and hurts our communities that rely on the economic benefit from visitors. Currently, our national parks are in dire need of maintenance with a more than ten billion dollar backlog. Our bill provides an innovative solution by creating the National Park Restoration Fund which will provide mandatory funding from unutilized resources already available to us, to bring that backlog down and ensure our National Park System is well and safely kept for generations to come.”
The National Park Restoration Act:
- Creates the National Park Restoration Fund to provide mandatory funding for the high-priority deferred maintenance needs that support critical infrastructure and visitor services at our national parks.
- Provides mandatory funding for the maintenance backlog on top of annual appropriations for operations and construction at the National Park Service.
- The fund receives 50 percent of onshore and offshore revenues from energy production on federal lands over expected amounts that are not already allocated to other purposes.
- Protects payments to states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Reclamation Fund, and all other existing uses of onshore and offshore revenues. These existing uses will receive all of their funding before the National Park Restoration Fund receives any funding.
The backlog of infrastructure projects at our national parks can limit access and impair visitor experiences and recreation opportunities, and without additional funding, the backlog could continue to grow. The National Park Service (NPS) maintenance backlog is nearly four times what NPS receives in annual appropriations. In Fiscal Year 2017 the NPS’ deferred maintenance needs were $11.6 billion – that same fiscal year, NPS received $2.9 million in annual appropriations.
President Trump and Secretary Zinke have made addressing the growing maintenance backlog a top priority.