June 21, 2018

Secretary Zinke Partners with ?Congress on Bipartisan Bill to Fix Our National Parks

Press Release from the Department of Interior:

Marks an important component of President Trump’s Infrastructure Framework for Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure

3/7/2018
Last edited 3/7/2018

Date: March 7, 2018
Contacts: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke joined U.S. Senator s Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) , Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and others to introduce a bipartisan bill to rebuild America’s National Park s. The proposed bill would use up to $18 billion in revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for “National Park Restoration”. The bill follows the blueprint laid out in Secretary Zinke and President Trump’s budget proposal, the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund. The Alexander/King bill’s cosponsors are: Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO) , and Thom Tillis (R-NC). This bill fulfills one of the priorities laid out in President Trump’s legislative framework for rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

” Infrastructure is an investment, not merely an expense. And every dollar we put in to rebuilding our parks, will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. Since the early days of my confirmation, I’ve been talking with members of the House and Senate about how we can use energy revenue to rebuild and revitalize our parks and communities,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Infrastructure is also about access for all Americans. Not all visitors to our parks have the ability to hike with a 30-pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities. In order for families with young kids , 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 bill is the largest investment in National Parks in our nation’s history. 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.”

“This legislation will help address the over $11 billion 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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“As someone who loves public lands and our National Parks, I am thrilled to be standing here today with Secretary Zinke, Senator Alexander, Senator King, and Congressman Schrader to propose a solution to fixing the backlog maintenance,” said Congressman Mike 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 Representative 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 Service estimates that its maintenance and repair backlog exceeds $11.6 billion. In 2017, 330 million people visited the 417 NPS sites across the country. The NPS completed over $650 million in maintenance and repair work in FY 2017, but aging facilities, high visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010.

Some examples of maintenance projects include:

  • ??Everglades National Park (Florida) – Showers, campgrounds and lodges that were destroyed during a hurricane more than a decade ago remain broken. Total Everglades maintenance backlog cost, more than $90 million.
  • Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana) – Earlier this month, an observation deck overlooking Lake Michigan crumbled and fell to the ground after years of erosion. Total Indiana Dunes maintenance backlog cost, more than $26 million.
  • Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) – A pipeline, and the only infrastructure to deliver water to the South Rim Village of 19,634 people daily for drinking, cooking and firefighting, breaks several times a year putting the well-being of the community including park lodges, visitor centers, homes, and Grand Canyon hikers at risk. Total Grand Canyon maintenance backlog cost, more than $329 million.
  • ??Statue of Liberty National Monument (NY/NJ) – $34.45 million is needed to stabilize the Ellis Island Seawall, which protects Ellis Island from erosion of wave action. $3.77 million is also needed to rehabilitate the Fire-Life-Safety System in the Main Immigration Building, where 2.2 million annual visitors start and end their visit to the island. Total Statue of Liberty National Monument maintenance backlog cost, more than $166 million.

While National Parks have enjoyed historic visitation over the past few years, many Americans have never been to a NPS
site and are unfamiliar with what infrastructure they hold. Here’s a quick look at National Park Service infrastructure across the board:

  • More than 5,500 miles of paved roads
  • More than 1,700 bridges and tunnels
  • More than 17,000 miles of trails
  • More than 1,300 campgrounds
  • More than 24,000 buildings including more than 500 visitor centers, 425 park lodges and hotel buildings, 3,870 housing units and more than 3,700 bathrooms
  • More than 1,000 miles of water pipelines
  • More than 1,500 water systems
  • More than 1,800 wastewater systems
  • More than 500 electrical systems
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Committee Begins Effort to Restore Public Lands with Review of Federal Maintenance Backlog

Press Release from the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources:

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 6, 2018 –

Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held the first in a series of hearings to address the maintenance backlog of the Department of the Interior (DOI).

Today, DOI manages more than 500 million acres of land in the U.S. and has a total of $16 billion worth of deferred maintenance, with almost half owned by the National Park Service (NPS).

“The deferred maintenance backlog is a top priority for anyone who loves our national parks,” Vice President of Government Relations for the National Park Foundation Jason Rano stated.

Dan Puskar, Executive Director of the Public Lands Alliance, attributed an increase of visitation as a driving factor in the backlog stressing the adverse impacts on visitor experiences.

“Whether it is a deteriorating road or bridge or a crumbling historic structure, neglected built assets on America’s public lands can have a detrimental impact on the experience of visitors,” Puskar said.

“I would like to acknowledge Chairman Bishop’s hard work,” Ranking Member Raul Grijalva stated, in reference to the “National Park Service Centennial Act,” which became law (Public Law 114-289) in the 114th Congress. “This bill created new revenue streams and established new programs to leverage private investment to support our national parks. These are important tools that we should continue to support though they are not enough to buy down deferred maintenance across the entire system.”

Panelists stressed the need for additional dedicated revenue streams and management reforms to effectively tackle the backlog while also fulfilling broader statutory responsibilities of the agencies.

“We know that we cannot rely on appropriated dollars alone,” Deputy Director of the NPS Daniel Smith and Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Steve Guertin argued. “Most importantly, we are looking at a new proposal to raise funds for this purpose by dedicating a portion of federal energy revenues to address this problem.”

The President’s DOI budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019 proposed the establishment of a Public Lands Maintenance Fund. The proposal envisions increases in revenue from federal energy leases to provide a dedicated funding source for the NPS and other targeted agencies.

“Today we’re dealing with the problem, next we start dealing with solutions to the problem,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) stated.

Click here for additional information on today’s hearing.

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Panel: Ballooning Federal Estate a Primary Barrier to Modernizing Infrastructure on Federal Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2017

Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing on ways to improve infrastructure and management at the National Park Service (NPS) and the Forest Service (USFS).

A reasonable person might conclude that federal agencies with deferred maintenance backlogs of $6 billion [USFS] and $12 billion [NPS] should first take care of the land it currently administers before acquiring new land. Yet, our land management agencies continue to push for additional land to be included in their systems. Real conservation means taking care of the things that you already own,” Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) said.

Prioritizing the care and management of existing federal lands was echoed by the panel. Executive Director of the Property and Environment Research Center Reed Watson pointed out the significant increase in units managed by the NPS over the past decade despite its growing maintenance backlog. NPS managed 390 units in 2006, today they manage 417 units.

It is ironic and unfortunate that many of the laws and regulations intended to enhance the value and accessibility of our national parks and forests are, in fact, accelerating their deterioration,Watson stated.

According to John Palatiello, President of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition, the massive federal estate rivals that of the Soviet Union and the federal government doesn’t know what it actually owns. He also referenced remarks from President Ronald Reagan during a question-and-answer session in Cleveland, OH in 1988:“West of the Mississippi River, your first glance at the map, you think the whole thing is red, the government owns so much property […] I don’t know any place other than the Soviet Union where the government owns more land than ours does.”

Thousands of acres, valued at billions of dollars, could be in Federal ownership that Uncle Sam doesn’t know he owns,” Palatiello added.Not only does the government lack a current, accurate land inventory, but dozens of agencies spend funds operating and maintaining a variety of out of date, inaccurate and duplicate single-purpose land records databases.”

In addition to creating an accurate inventory of the federal estate, the panel encouraged the use of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for deferred maintenance over further land acquisition.

The majority of LWCF appropriations have actually exacerbated the federal land infrastructure crisis by stretching the agencies’ maintenance budgets over an ever-expanding the federal estate,” Watson said.  

Other witnesses and members discussed streamlining cumbersome regulatory processes, increasing opportunities for philanthropic donations and engaging with volunteer and partner groups to improve infrastructure and management while saving costs and increasing efficiency.

Click here to read full witness testimony.

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