The National Park Service Legacy Act
In March, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced The National Park Service Legacy Act, a bipartisan bill that would help to restore our deteriorating park infrastructure.
The National Park Service (NPS) just celebrated 100 years, but it’s entering its second century struggling to fix crumbling infrastructure, with an estimated $11.3 billion in overdue infrastructure repairs. The list includes roads and bridges, run-down trails, rotting historic buildings, outdated and unsafe utility systems, and deteriorating memorials and monuments.
The National Park Service Legacy Act would establish a federal fund to provide dedicated annual resources for to restore national park infrastructure. By providing consistent, reliable funding to ensure that NPS can repair overdue maintenance and infrastructure needs, the legislation will help to protect our natural and historic treasures, and help ensure that local communities continue to benefit from park visitor spending.
According to a December 2016 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, in 2015 over $10 billion of the backlog of repairs were needed at NPS sites that are more than 40 years old. The backlog is a result of aging infrastructure, increased wear and tear from record visitation (331 million visits in 2016), and years of unreliable congressional funding.
The National Park Service Legacy Act would:
- Establish a federal fund—the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund”—to draw down the national park maintenance backlog.
- The fund would be financed using revenues from the on-shore and off-shore production of oil, gas, coal, and other mineral operations that are not already allocated by law to other programs.
- Monies would ramp up over time, based on the schedule below, to address high-priority national park deferred maintenance needs:
- $50,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020
- $150,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021, 2022, and 2023
- $250,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2024, 2025, and 2026
- $500,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2027 through 2047
The legislation would also establish the following parameters:
- Eighty percent of the fund would be used to repair and rehabilitate NPS assets, including: historic structures, visitor facilities, trails, water utility systems, and assets that impact disability access, health and safety, and recreation.
- Twenty percent of it would be used to restore transportation-related infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and tunnels.
- Prohibit allocated funds from being used for land acquisition or to replace discretionary funding for NPS facility operations and maintenance needs.
- Protect the authority of Congress by requiring review of proposed maintenance projects by appropriate committees.
- Promote public-private collaboration by incentivizing projects that have a private donation cost-share component.