Committee Approves Warner, Portman, Alexander, King Legislation to Address National Park Service Maintenance Backlog
Nov 19 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) announced the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved their bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country. Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have led similar legislation in the House of Representatives. The legislation now awaits action on the Senate floor.
“If we want to protect our national treasures for our children and future generations, we must make important investments before it’s too late,” Warner said. “National parks are not only instrumental in telling America’s story, they also serve as important economic engines that support thousands of jobs in communities across the country. In fact, the 22.2 million visitors who explored Virginia’s national parks last year spent an estimated $1.1 billion, supporting more than 16,000 thousand jobs. Today’s committee passage of the Restore Our Parks Act is a big first step in investing in our communities and funding the critical renovations our parks require.”
“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country,”Portman said. “But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the necessary resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects like the more than $100 million in maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national parks. I’d like to thank Senators Warner, Alexander, and King as well as the cosponsors of his legislation for their leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to get this legislation signed into law so that the National Park Service can continue preserving American treasures.”
“This legislation could do more to restore our national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century, and the reason we need to restore them is so Americans can enjoy the 419 sites – from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Grand Canyon – for generations to come,” said Alexander.
“Today’s committee vote represents an important, bipartisan step towards establishing lasting protections for our National Parks, and preserving these treasures for our children and grandchildren,” said King. “From Acadia to Zion, the National Park System captures America’s diverse natural beauty and is a proud reminder of our country’s dedication to preserving public land for all its citizens. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.’ We have a collective responsibility to maintain this spirit of the wilderness in our National Parks – and this starts with the $12 billion maintenance backlog. Stewardship of our public lands is not a partisan issue, which is why I’m pleased that the Restore Our Parks Act passed our committee with strong bipartisan support.”
“Today’s vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is yet another sign of the overwhelming public and congressional support to fix our parks. It’s now up to leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives to advance the bipartisan Restore Our Parks legislation,” said Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to restore America’s parks. “Enacting this measure into law would be a historic end-of-the-year gift to our national parks, their millions of visitors, and local economies.”
“From Acadia to Cuyahoga and the Great Smokies, America’s national parks protect some of America’s most iconic landscapes and most important history, and are beloved by millions. Yet as our parks face years of record-breaking visitation, they are falling into disrepair,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Billions of dollars are needed to fix parks’ crumbling roads, overgrown trails, broken water and sewer systems and outdated visitor centers. This isn’t the legacy we should be leaving for our children and grandchildren. After years of urging by communities and park advocates, today lawmakers are banding together, across the aisle, to fix our parks. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King, as we move one important step closer to providing our parks, rangers and local communities with the support they so desperately need and deserve.”
“The importance of our national parks extends way beyond their conservation and recreation value—they are also vital hubs if of economic activity, driving $40.1 billion in annual economic activity and 329,000 American jobs,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President, Tori Emerson Barnes. “The Restore Our Parks Act is a critical step in securing our parks’ infrastructure so that they remain available both for the enjoyment of future generations and to sustain that economic legacy. We thank Senator Portman, for his key role in moving this legislation forward.”
“America’s National Parks are often called our nation’s best idea, but after decades of inadequate funding and deferred maintenance,”said Thomas Cassidy, vice president for government relations and policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Our nation risks losing these incredible resources. Our national parks are more than just places to experience natural beauty—they are places where our children and children’s children can experience the full American story. We applaud Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for their leadership and commitment to our national parks and look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to secure passage of the Restore Our Parks Act.”
“The Restore Our Parks Act represents a significant investment in our national parks, which reflect all that we love and cherish as a nation,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO, National Park Foundation. “As these places face increased visitation and aging infrastructure, this bill will help protect our parks' natural grandeur, expansive history, and rich cultural heritage. The National Park Foundation applauds bill champions Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Angus King, Senator Rob Portman, and Senator Mark Warner for their unwavering support. We commend Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Joe Manchin for holding today's markup and their shared commitment to addressing our parks’ deferred maintenance needs. As the Foundation continues to enhance the national park visitor experience through philanthropic support, we look forward to the legislation’s timely consideration on the Senate floor."
“Our national parks are engines of economic growth for gateway communities across the country – and the Restore Our Parks Act is the key to ensuring proper funding to fix our aging and deteriorating national treasures,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president of government affairs at Outdoor Industry Association. “OIA applauds the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for working in a bipartisan manner to approve this critical legislation that will result in better infrastructure, healthier communities and a stronger economy. This day would not be possible without the dedication of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King to propel the bill forward. We urge the full Senate to finish the job and pass this legislation as soon as possible.”
“National parks provide major economic opportunities for gateway counties. With National Park Service infrastructure in need of repair, surrounding communities often see declines in tourism,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “The Restore Our Parks Act would help reduce the significant maintenance backlog and ensure positive experiences for visitors to our public lands. We thank the members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for supporting this legislation and urge the full Senate to act on it quickly.”
NOTE: The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.