ELECTRONIC SUBMISSION – NO HARD COPY TO FOLLOW
January 17, 2017
Senator Diane Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Feinstein:
On behalf of all who value America’s heritage, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks respectfully requests you to act swiftly to address the National Park Service’s $11.9 billion maintenance backlog. The chronic failure of our nation to address this maintenance and infrastructure repair backlog is greatly inhibiting the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission, which is to “Preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
With 2016 marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, our nation is now in its second century of protecting and preserving America’s most treasured places, places that represent our country’s natural majesty, rich culture, and vibrant history. But as record-breaking crowds flock to our national parks, our parks are facing an incredible challenge: nearly $12 billion in needed repairs, and not enough money to fix them.
National Park Service staff does an amazing job managing and operating our parks, but the sheer magnitude of the deferred maintenance backlog is what makes this such a challenge. The needed repairs are wide ranging, from unmaintained trails to crumbling roads, and from aging visitor centers – built over 50-years ago – to antiquated and undersized fire suppression and sewage treatment systems. Some of these needs would cost only a few thousand dollars to fix, while others could cost millions. However, one consistency is that failure to address these needs will continue to deeply jeopardize the future of America’s natural and cultural heritage.
No National Park Service unit is immune to this affliction. Based on 2015 data, the nationwide National Park Service maintenance backlog is estimated at $11.9 billion, including more than $2.2 billion to repair buildings, nearly $73 million for campground maintenance, over $530 million for trail restoration, and more than $6 billion for fixing roads. The fact that National Park System receives over 307 million visits each year underscores the need to prioritize funding for these repairs. It is sadly ironic that while we have not funded the maintenance backlog, spending from visitors to our national parks annually generates more than three times that amount for the U.S. economy (more than $32 billion in 2015), and supports hundreds of thousands of private-sector jobs.
This is no way to treat some of our country’s most important places. Our national parks face these challenges in large part because Congress has not made them a funding priority. The entire National Park Service budget makes up just 1/14th of one percent of the federal budget, yet the agency’s budget continues to decline. In fact, the National Park Service receives less than 60 cents out of every dollar it needs just to keep the backlog from growing.
Our parks, whether a vast wilderness where we can find needed solitude or a historical bridge that connects us to our past, need our help. Congress created the National Park Service a century ago to protect America’s treasured natural, historical, and cultural sites, and to ensure that Americans can enjoy these treasures. It is Congress’s responsibility to ensure the agency has the resources it needs to fulfill that mission.
Thank you for your years of commitment dedicated to the protection of our national parks and our environment. On behalf of our nearly 1,200 members and millions of park enthusiasts across the nation, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, respectfully requests you work with other members of Congress to address the National Park Service maintenance backlog.