Senator Lisa Murkowski
U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski,
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks supports S. 3172, the Restore Our Parks Act, which is a bipartisan effort led by Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King to establish a fund to address the deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service. This bill was the subject of a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on July 11, 2018, where both Republican and Democratic members, along with a number of non-profit organizations, offered their support.
S. 3172 would help address the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion backlog in deferred maintenance projects that include historic buildings, visitor centers, recreational facilities, roads, and trails, as well as water and sewer systems, maintenance buildings, and other support facilities found in most national parks. The bill would provide up to $6.5 billion over five years to address the backlog by providing a dedicated source of revenue that would supplement annual appropriations and other revenue sources of the National Park Service. The bill represents a good start toward reducing the maintenance backlog of our national parks. While not as ambitious as its predecessor bill, S. 751, which would have provided up to $15 billion over 30 years for park maintenance needs, S. 3172 would make a significant contribution toward addressing the backlog.
However, enacting this bill is only part of congressional actions necessary to shore up the national park system. It is critical that annual appropriations and staffing levels for the National Park Service be restored to the FY 2009 level, and then, at a minimum, have them keep pace with inflation while providing supplemental funding and staffing when new park units or programs are established by Congress. Additionally, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, set to expire on September 30, 2018, needs to be reauthorized to deal with the backlog of land acquisition that is at least $2 billion in order to protect identified natural, cultural, and historic resource lands within the boundaries of existing national park units that must be protected.
If enacted, S. 3172 will only succeed if Congress approves the annual lists of projects submitted by the Park Service to spend the money going into the restoration fund so that the full intent of the bill is realized. Additionally, the core purpose of this legislation is not achieved if the Secretary of the Interior is not fully committed to seeing that fund is expended as the money becomes available.
The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks offers its support to this bipartisan effort to help make sure our national parks continuing to be welcoming places for all visitors while protecting their magnificent resources for future generations.
Philip A. Francis, Jr., Chair
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
201 I Street, NE #805, Washington, DC 20002