Members of Congress are putting investment in national park infrastructure back on the legislative table. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have reintroduced the Restore America’s Parks and Public Lands Act to address the backlog of repairs at national parks. On the Senate side, Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) have brought back the Restore Our Parks Act.
Both bills call for a portion of unobligated royalties paid to the federal government from energy development on public lands and waters to be directed to priority park and public land repairs—up to $6.5 billion over five years. Here are the top five reasons why it’s time to pass legislation to help fund the almost $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog within our National Park System.
With more than 400 National Park Service (NPS) sites to attract history buffs, hikers, and adventurers, these places are popular tourist destinations with more than 330 million visits in 2017 alone. But the NPS is more than 100 years old. Many of these sites have aging facilities and infrastructure. Because these places are well-loved, the millions of visits can add to the wear and tear on resources that are already deteriorating. Our interactive lists some of the repairs plaguing your favorite park and the funding needed to fix them.
National parks are like mini cities. They have roads, buildings, visitor amenities, and sewer and water systems to serve the millions of visitors each year. The repairs can be made with dedicated annual funding, planning, and investment for large-scale or complex infrastructure projects. A recent analysis commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that this could create more than 100,000 jobs.
The millions of people who visit NPS sites spend billions of dollars in nearby communities. NPS data show that $18 billion flowed to gateway cities and towns from park visitors in 2017. This economic engine needs to keep generating money, jobs, and tax revenue. But maintenance woes at the parks could affect visitor accessibility and the communities that depend on tourism revenue.
Americans agree that we should fix our parks. In a Pew poll commissioned in November, more than 75 percent of Americans surveyed favored legislation to direct up to $6.5 billion over five years to address priority park repairs. Additionally, almost 3,000 national and local organizations have called on Congress to provide more dedicated resources to protect our national parks.
Lawmakers are making national parks a priority this session of Congress and have reintroduced bills to invest in park infrastructure, with the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act in the House and the Restore Our Parks Act in the Senate.
Parks aren’t partisan; they’re American. We encourage Congress to pass this legislation and restore our parks for future generations.
Marcia Argust directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks.