In-Depth: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced this bill to address the National Park Service’s nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog:
“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country. But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the right resources to maintain our national parks.”
At the time of this bill’s introduction, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke expressed his support:
“Since my confirmation hearing, I’ve been adamant that we must address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our National Parks. I’m happy to see Senators Portman, Warner, King and Alexander teamed up to craft a very strong and historic bill to rebuild our national parks. Park infrastructure is about access for all Americans. In order for families, children, elderly grandparents, or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and I think that the bipartisan body of lawmakers who put this bill forward is proof. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Administration and Congress to see this come to fruition.”
The National Parks Conservation Association, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Outdoor Industry Association, U.S. Travel Association, Evangelical Environmental Network, Property and Environment Research Center support this bill. Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said:
“National parks bring people together and help bridge political party lines.... [this bill] will put a significant investment into the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog needs. We commend the leadership of these park champions for their bill that makes a strong investment in our parks that they desperately need and deserve. America’s national parks include our most treasured landscapes and historic and cultural sites that must be protected and maintained so that future generations have the opportunity to learn about the people and places that have shaped our nation’s legacy.”
There are 20 cosponsors of this bill, including 11 Republicans, eight Democrats, and one Independent.
Of Note: U.S. national parks are a significant draw for both domestic and international tourists. In 2016, over a third of the 37.6 million overseas visitors who traveled to the U.S. visited a national park or monument. Thus, as the U.S. seeks to grow its share of the international travel market, national park maintenance is an important investment.
In 2017, visitors spent $18 billion in gateway communities (towns and cities that are buoyed by close proximity to the national parks). According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, this spending supported 306,000 jobs and generated nearly $35 billion in national economic output.
If the nearly $12 billion in maintenance and repairs needed at 417 parks nationwide were addressed, it’s estimated that 110,000 more jobs could be created or supported.
The idea of using revenue from energy production on federal lands for conservation is an old idea, going back to the creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964.
In fiscal year 2017, Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) disbursements from energy and minerals products on federal and Native American Indian lands and offshore areas totaled $7.11 billion.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStock / Dendron)