Americans Want Congress to Act to Fix National Parks

Poll shows 8 in 10 support bills allocating billions for overdue repairs

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Americans Want Congress to Act to Fix National Parks
Fire Tower
Substantial dry rot in this lookout tower at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is among the issues that need to be addressed in the park’s $84 million maintenance backlog.
National Park Service

Summer brings a big jump in visitors to national parks, along with a reminder of how many repairs are waiting to be addressed at these sites to ensure safe access for current visitors and protection of American history for future generations. In fact, the more than 400 sites managed by the National Park Service (NPS) need almost $12 billion worth of deferred maintenance.

A new poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that 82 percent of Americans want Congress to pass legislation—now pending—to invest up to $1.3 billion per year over five years to address these overdue repairs. That percentage is up from a similar Pew-commissioned telephone poll in November 2018, which  found that 76 percent of Americans supported legislation to address the maintenance backlog.   

The most recent survey, conducted in June 2019 by the bipartisan research team of New Bridge Strategy and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, revealed strong support for the legislation, which would create a fund of up to $6.5 billon to address park repairs by using payments that oil and gas companies are already making to the federal government for operating on public lands and waters. 

Deferred maintenance issues at NPS sites include deteriorating historic buildings; crumbling roads; outdated water, sewer, and electrical systems; and eroding trails and campgrounds.

Congressional leaders can call for a floor vote to fix our parks

The parks restoration measures—the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1225) and the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 500)—already enjoy strong bipartisan support in Congress, with more than one-third of senators and more than two-thirds of House members backing the bills. With legislation already passed by a key House committee, it is now up to congressional leadership to schedule a vote by the full House. On July 25, the House legislation reached an impressive milestone when the 300th representative signed on as co-sponsor.

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Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) speak on the House floor July 25 in support of the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, which has over 300 co-sponsors.

Deferred maintenance affects national park visitors and, if left unaddressed, could lead to a drop in park visitation and spending in communities near NPS sites. In 2018 alone, visitors spent more than $20 billion in gateway regions near national parks, helping to support almost 330,000 jobs. 

The June poll also found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. voters believe the NPS lacks adequate funds to maintain its sites. A similar percentage wants Congress to allocate more federal highway funds to address the backlog of transportation needs—such as road repairs—which account for about half of the total deferred maintenance.

Marcia Argust directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks.

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The Pew Charitable Trusts worked with “This American Land” to raise public awareness of the need to restore our parks. Legislation is pending in Congress to do just that by investing $6.5 billion over five years to address priority repairs.

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