A bipartisan coalition of senators proposed legislation June 29 that would address the $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance needed across the national parks.
The bill, titled the Restore Our Parks Act, would create a legacy restoration fund to help address the maintenance needs that parks across the country set aside every year, because they do not have the funding to pursue them.
“The longer we wait to address the crumbling infrastructure in our national parks, the worse the problem gets. Today’s introduction marks a step forward in the process of finally fixing the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in a news release on the bill.
The bill is a collaboration between two similar bills previously introduced in the Senate to address the backlog: the National Park Service Legacy Act introduced by Warner and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and the National Park Restoration Act, introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Angus King, I-Minn.
“Park infrastructure is about access for all Americans. In order for families, children, elderly grandparents or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors’ centers. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and I think that the bipartisan body of lawmakers who put this bill forward is proof,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
Conservation organizations applauded the bill’s introduction.
“Our national parks are more popular than ever, welcoming a record-breaking 331 million visitors last year. Despite a significant increase in visitation over the past five years, our parks have remained underfunded and understaffed. This bill provides relief from repairs plaguing the park system that if left unaddressed, will adversely impact visitor experiences and surrounding communities that depend on park tourism,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, in a news release. “By addressing parks’ maintenance needs, Congress will also invest in local communities across the country.”