To highlight new legislation sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., with endorsements by dozens of lawmakers of both political parties, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with Interior officials and Utah’s congressional delegation in Zion National Park Monday to press the need to fix aging national park infrastructure and do it without adding to the federal deficit. The bill would invest $6.5 billion over five years to fix park infrastructure nationwide, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.
“The experience should be five star,” Zinke said. “It should be one where people come to our parks, enjoy the beauty, the majesty of our greatest holdings. It’s mandatory spending, but it’s fiscally responsible because if you don’t get to the infrastructure today, it’s a liability to the future. It’s going to cost more tomorrow.”
Across the National Park Service’s 417 units, which saw 331 million visits last year, deferred maintenance has become a crisis. Utah’s share of the backlog is $292 million, ranking it 10th among the states, well behind neighboring Wyoming and Arizona. Zion’s share is $65 million and growing.
The measure would tap $1.3 billion a year from energy revenue streaming in from public lands, whether from oil, gas, wind or solar. Parks account for a big majority of the maintenance backlog among all federal land agencies. The Bureau of Land Management, which administers far more territory, accounts for just $2 billion, in contrast with the parks’ $12 billion.
According to a 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service, paved roads accounted for about half the parks’ backlog. Other big items included buildings ($2 billion), trails ($489 million), water systems ($275 million), and campgrounds ($74 million).