June 8, 2021
Dear Members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,
We, the members of the National Parks Second Century Action Coalition1The 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., write in support of the significant investments for national parks, in particular the Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP) and Federal Lands and Tribal Major Projects Program (FLTMP) in the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America Act). In addition, we appreciate the committee supporting $16 million in dedicated funding for the National Scenic Byways Program for the first time in over a decade. However, we respectfully ask the annual amount for the National Scenic Byways Program be increased to $65 million per year and the funding start in FY22.
Increased investments for the FLTP and FLTMP (formerly the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Project Program) would provide necessary funding to help address the billions of dollars of transportation maintenance needs, such as paved roads, parking lots, tunnels and bridges throughout the National Park System. A robust investment in the National Scenic Byways Program would provide crucial funding to our nation’s scenic roads to help promote tourism and economic development to local communities. The pandemic made it evident American’s great appreciation for our national parks and scenic drives.
The FLTP was established to support the transportation infrastructure owned and maintained by the federal land management agencies, including the National Park Service. The proposed investments would provide the National Park Service the necessary resources to further chip away at the remaining backlog of maintenance needs and maintain current assets, while also providing jobs throughout the country.
The FLTMP provides a necessary funding stream for federal lands and tribes to address major infrastructure projects needing a large investment at one time. In recent years, the program’s funding has been used for Natchez Trace Parkway, Yellowstone National Park and Tamiami Trail in the Everglades. The most recent award provided funding for the overdue replacement of the propane-powered Zion shuttle buses with cost-efficient battery-electric buses, which will cut down on air pollution in and around the park and ensure public access. We appreciate the additional funding, particularly the dedicated funding for this program, to allow the agencies and tribes to better plan for these large investments.
The National Scenic Byways Program preserves and protects the nation’s scenic but often less traveled roads by allowing states to install interpretive signs and directional signs and build visitor centers. Several national park roads contain or are adjacent to scenic byways. For example, the Blue Ridge Parkway and George Washington Memorial Parkway are both national parks and national scenic byways. And Death Valley Scenic Byway is the main route to and through Death Valley National Park and Great River Road National Byway runs through Vicksburg National Military Park. We appreciate the committee’s commitment to the National Scenic Byways Program and request the committee increase the funding to $65 million a year and begin the funding in FY22. Additional dedicated funding would help revitalize the program and the economy by serving as a quick boost to communities throughout the country hit hard by the pandemic.
Our national parks, public lands and scenic byways generate billions of dollars for local economies in tourism dollars, jobs and tax revenue. Repairing and maintaining them is a smart investment, and will create additional infrastructure-related jobs, as well as preserve visitor access and resources.
Thank you for the support and considering our request to increase funding for the National Scenic Byways Program as the bill moves forward.
American Society of Landscape Architects
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Atomic Heritage Foundation
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Evangelical Environmental Network
International Inbound Travel Association
National Park Hospitality Association
National Parks Conservation Association
National Tour Association
Public Lands Alliance
Rocky Mountain Conservancy
Southeast Travel Society
RV Industry Association
United States Tour Operators Association