The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has moved legislation forward to provide $6.5 billion over five years to help the National Park Service address its nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog. The House Natural Resources Committee also has passed the measure, so now it’s up to both chambers of Congress to act on it, reports National Parks Traveler.
“Key committees in the Senate and House of Representatives have given their bipartisan stamp of approval to legislation to fix our aging and deteriorating national parks,” said Marcia Argust, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to Restore America’s Parks. “With strong bipartisan support for our parks not only on Capitol Hill but in communities across the nation, Congress should act now to get the legislation over the finish line this year.”
At the National Parks Conservation Association, Theresa Pierno said it’s critical for the parks that Congress send the measure to President Trump for approval.
“For years, NPCA has urged our lawmakers to address our national parks’ repair needs,” said Pierno, the group’s president and CEO. “Too many of our parks’ water systems, visitor centers, roads, and trails have been neglected—not because of lack of will but because of lack of money. Park rangers have had to make due with shoestring budgets while aging infrastructure takes its toll.”
U.S. Sen. Michael Lee, R-Utah, whose state is home to five national parks, many of which are struggling with overcrowding and insufficient resources, opposed the measure.
“Unfortunately, the federal government has found it difficult to be a good steward of all that land,” said Sen. Lee, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Some of that is understandable. It’s foreseeable. When any one entity owns that much land, it’s going to be tough to keep up with it.”
The Senate committee also passed legislation calling for renewal and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps address recreational needs across the country.
“Today marks a major victory and step forward for America’s most important conservation funding program, which is vital to communities in every corner of the nation,” said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams. “The committee’s approval of S. 569 sends a signal to local communities that there is hope that Congress will renew this critical program and ensure it has the long-term funding stability it requires. These conservation projects require long-term certainty provided by permanent reauthorization and dedicated funding.”