two children sitting on a dock looking out over a lake with mountains in the distance

Project

Restore America's Parks

Lawmakers from both parties have put forward legislation to help restore America’s national parks. In 2016, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the National Park Service Centennial Act, which provided a mechanism to generate up to $50 million annually to address deferred maintenance at park sites. Congress is now considering other measures to partially fund an $11.9 billion repair backlog:

Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act

The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1225), bipartisan legislation introduced Feb. 14 by Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), would direct federal funds each year for five years to help address deferred maintenance within our national parks and public lands.  

The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act would:

  • Establish a federal fund in the U.S. Treasury—the National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund—to address the maintenance backlog at sites managed by the National Park Service (NPS), other public lands agencies, and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).
  • Direct royalties from energy development on federal lands and waters into the fund, up to $1.3 billion per year for five years. (Receipts already obligated by law to other programs would not be diverted to the new fund.) Revenue would break down as follows:
  • 80 percent for the NPS.
  • 10 percent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) National Wildlife Refuge.
  • 5 percent for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
  • 5 percent for the BIE.
  • Prohibit funds from being used for land acquisition, employee bonuses, or to replace discretionary funding for facility operations and maintenance needs.

Bill status

The House bill was referred to the Natural Resources and the Education and Labor committees. Its Senate companion bill was referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Restore Our Parks Act

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Restore Our Parks Act Feb 14. This legislation would help NPS draw down its multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog.

The Restore Our Parks Act would:

  • Establish a federal fund in the U.S. Treasury—the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund—to address deferred maintenance at NPS sites. Allocations would be capped at $1.3 billion a year for five years.
  • Direct royalties from energy development on federal lands and waters into the fund, up to $1.3 billion per year for five years. (Receipts already obligated by law to other programs would not be diverted to the new fund.) Set aside 65 percent of the fund’s revenue for repairing non-transportation resources (historic structures, visitor facilities, trails, water utility systems, and assets that improve access, health, safety, and recreation). The remaining 35 percent would be used to restore transportation-related assets (roads, bridges, and tunnels).
  • Prohibit allocated funds from being used to acquire land or to replace discretionary funding for NPS facility operations and maintenance needs.
  • Allow the treasury secretary to invest the funds in a public debt security. Income from the investment would be returned to the fund.
  • Allow monies to remain in the fund until they are spent.

Bill status

The Senate bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Its House companion bill was referred to the House Natural Resources and Education and Labor committees.

Land and National Park Deferred Maintenance Act

Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) introduced the Land and National Park Deferred Maintenance (LAND) Act, H.R. 1026, on Feb. 6. The bill would provide dedicated annual funding for 10 years to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and to address the deferred maintenance backlog within the NPS, other public lands agencies, and the BIE.    

The deferred maintenance section of the act establishes a fund—the National Park Service and Related Agencies Maintenance and Revitalization Conservation Fund—that would provide $450 million a year for priority repairs on public lands. Revenue would break down as follows:

  • 80 percent, or $360 million, for the NPS
  • 10 percent, or $45 million, for the FWS
  • 5 percent, or $22.5 million, for the BLM
  • 5 percent, or $22.5 million, for the BIE

The act would encourage donations, prohibit funds from supplanting annual appropriations, and allow for money in the fund to be invested.

The LWCF section of the act would permanently reauthorize LWCF and provide $450 million a year for the program. The bill would prohibit land from being acquired using eminent domain. Revenue would break down as follows:

  • $180 million for federal purposes
  • $220 million for state purposes 

No less than 1.5 percent of funds would be allocated for improved access for sportsmen.

Bill status

The legislation was referred to the House Natural Resources and Budget committees.