April 30, 2020

Dear Chairwoman McCollum, Ranking Member Joyce, Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall,

We, the members of the National Parks Second Century Action Coalition (i), write to encourage you to increase funding for the National Park Service (NPS) and ensure exclusion of all policy riders that harm our national parks within the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill in FY21.

We recognize the funding constraints within the Interior allocation, but respectfully ask you to consider increasing NPS funding given the agency’s continued fiscal challenges and the challenges associated with the COVID-19 crisis on the agency and its staff. Specifically, we request additional funding for NPS operations, construction and partnerships. We also urge you to reauthorize the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

A growing challenge for the superintendents who manage our parks is insufficient staff to address park needs and welcome record numbers of visitors. Between 2011 and 2019, NPS lost 16% of its staff while at the same time struggling to accommodate a 17% increase in visitation. Parks are short-staffed for many duties including education, interpretation and other visitor services; science; maintenance; resource protection and management; and more. Park budgets generally must absorb increases for retirement and other benefits, salary increases, inflation and other uncontrollable fixed costs.

As our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we expect people to flock back to their parks. Operational shortfalls will be further challenged by the loss of significant fee revenue during the closure of parks due to the pandemic. Increasing the operations account by $94 million above FY20 to $2.261 billion would help address staffing challenges and other operational needs and help parks recover from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional resources are also needed to address the NPS deferred maintenance backlog. Park infrastructure is aging and has not received the needed capital investment to address repairs. Overdue projects include eroding trails, leaking pipes, outdated visitor centers, crumbling roads, decaying historic sites and more. Many projects are unseen by the visiting public but challenge park staff, such as staff housing. Maintenance challenges will be compounded due to the inability of park staff to perform preventative maintenance due to reduced staffing during the pandemic. Robust investment with no less than last year’s increases in the deferred maintenance operation and construction accounts would continue the progress you have already made on park repairs. For example, increasing the construction account to $439 million, a $50 million increase over FY20 (average increase over the last five years), which would help address repair projects throughout the system.

Resources are also needed to support the Centennial Challenge, a program that leverages philanthropic dollars with at least a one-to-one match of federal dollars for signature projects that improve the visiting experience, including deferred maintenance and park programs. Recent signature projects include addressing deferred maintenance at the historic Hammond-Cranz farm in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and supporting Native American recreational programming at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Many more philanthropic opportunities await additional funding. During the pandemic, park partners have been unable to assist the park service with maintenance and other projects improving the visitor experience, making these funds all the more valuable as parks recover. Increasing the Centennial Challenge by $10 million over FY20 to $30 million to leverage nonfederal dollars would improve the visiting experience in parks across the country.

We also request increased funding in the Housing Improvement Program to directly address employee housing that desperately needs repair. Based on the most publicly available NPS data, deferred maintenance for employee housing totaled more than $180 million annually in recent years. Compared with the $2.9 million NPS received in FY2020 for its Housing Improvement Program, there is still a tremendous need. We urge you to allocate $4 million for the Housing Improvement Program to more quickly address this urgent need.

It is our sincere hope that people will enjoy our national parks to their fullest following the COVID-19 crisis and help restore the economies of the gateway communities. In 2018, 318 million park visitors spent an estimated $20.2 billion in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands across the country. These expenditures supported a total of 329 thousand jobs. In addition, America’s outdoor recreation economy supports over five million American jobs and contributes over $778 billion in annual economic output. NPS needs the financial resources to ensure the visitors have the experience they deserve when the parks are reopened fully.

Thank you for considering our views,

The 1882 Foundation
American Hiking Society
American Society of Landscape Architects
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Friends of Acadia
Friends of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park
National Parks Conservation Association
National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Tour Association
Public Lands Alliance
Scenic America
Southeast Tourism Society
St. Croix River Association
Student Conservation Association
The Corps Network
United States Tour Operators Association
Voyageurs National Park


April 30, 2020

Dear Chairman Price and Ranking Member Diaz-Balart, Chairwoman Collins and Ranking Member Reed,

We, the members of the National Parks Second Century Action Coalition (i), write to encourage you to increase funding for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program in the FY21 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill.

We recognize the funding constraints within the THUD allocation, but respectfully ask you to consider providing the full authorized amount of $100 million for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program to help address some of the large transportation projects in our parks and other federal lands. The Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Project program is for repair and reconstruction projects on our federal or tribal lands costing at least $25 million.
The National Park Service (NPS) deferred maintenance backlog totals $11.9 billion. A little over a half of that amount ($6.2 billion) relates directly to transportation assets.

That amount includes paved roads, tunnels, bridges and parking lots. Of that amount, $4.8 billion is categorized as highest and high priority transportation-related NPS repair projects. Also, nearly a third of the overall backlog is for large projects, such as the reconstruction of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop road, which require an amount of funding beyond what is available on an annual basis.
There is tremendous need for this program. In a recent request for proposals, agency projects totaled over $2 billion for an appropriation of $325 million (three years of combined appropriations). Of that $2 billion, $800 million were requests for NPS projects.

Investments in our parks are investments to local economies. It is our sincere hope that people will enjoy our national parks to their fullest following this national crisis and help restore the economies of the gateway communities. In 2018, 318 million park visitors spent an estimated $20.2 billion in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands across the country. These expenditures supported a total of 329 thousand jobs. In addition, America’s outdoor recreation economy supports over 5 million American jobs and contributes over $778 billion in annual economic output. NPS needs the financial resources to ensure the visitors have the experience they deserve when the parks are reopened fully.

Thank you for considering our views,

The 1882 Foundation
American Hiking Society
American Society of Landscape Architects
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Friends of Acadia
Friends of Hawai`i Volcanoes
National Park National Parks Conservation Association
National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Tour Association
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Public Lands Alliance
Scenic America Southeast Tourism Society
St. Croix River Association
Student Conservation Association
The Corps Network
United States Tour Operators Association
Voyageurs National Park


(i) The National Parks Second Century Action Coalition is made up of organizations supporting conservation, recreation, outdoor industry, travel and tourism and historic preservation that are dedicated to promoting the protection, restoration, and enjoyment of the National Park System for the long-term benefit it offers our nation.