National Conservation Leaders Praise Bipartisan Legislation to Fund Maintenance Backlog on Federal Lands

March 10, 2020 | Portman Difference

Yesterday, Senators Portman, Gardner, Manchin, Daines, Warner, Alexander, and King introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, landmark legislation to address the more than $18 billion in deferred maintenance backlog across all federal lands and provide mandatory and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Notably, the legislation includes Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King’s Restore Our Parks Act, legislation to help address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS) by establishing the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund, funded by half of the existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore development up to $1.3 billion for the next five years. Portman worked with his colleagues to expand his legislation to also include funding to address the deferred maintenance backlog at the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education. The Great American Outdoors Act now provides $1.9 billion per year for five years into the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund from half of unobligated on and offshore energy revenues to address maintenance needs on all federal lands. 

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act in November 2019 and President Trump has voiced his support for this legislative effort. The following national conservation leaders support the legislation:  

“The National Park Foundation has been a strong advocate of efforts to address and reduce the backlog of deferred maintenance in our National Parks. We are excited by the recent activity in congress and are in complete support of the Great Outdoors Act.  We look forward to working with Congress to get this historic legislation across the finish line,” said Will Shafroth, President & CEO of the National Park Foundation. 

“Introduction of the Great American Outdoors Act is a tremendous step toward restoring aging national park sites across the country,”  said Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to Restore America’s Parks. “We are pleased that Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King expanded their Restore Our Parks Act to inject up to $9.5 billion over 5 years into our National Park System and other land agencies. We applaud their leadership and that of Senators Gardner, Manchin, and Daines in championing bipartisan national parks and Land and Water Conservation Fund legislation. This landmark measure will ensure the protection of our nation’s history, public access and recreation opportunities, and local economies that depend on tourism, and we urge a quick Senate vote.” 

“For years, advocates in Ohio and across the country have spoken out, urging Congress to fix our national parks and preserve America’s legacy. National parks and public lands are dealing with billions of dollars in repair needs, from crumbling roads to failing water systems and outdated visitor centers,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Because of the leadership of congressional park champions, including Senator Rob Portman, places like Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Wayne National Forest will get the funding they need to address their backlog of repairs. The long-term funding solution included in this legislation will help ensure these places can welcome visitors now, and generations from now. This bill is proof that Americans have a voice in our political system, and that our parks and public lands can transcend politics.” 

“The Great American Outdoor Act is a huge step for outdoor recreationists and the industry and the $778 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “ORR, representing the full breadth of outdoor recreation, came together several years ago around the crumbling infrastructure on our public lands and waters. Tackling this issue, while fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, will help to further fuel the outdoor recreation economy across the country. We applaud Senator Portman’s dedication to the maintenance backlog issue and the huge outpouring of support from ORR members and partners. This work will ensure outdoor recreation access for generations to come.” 

“Our national parks are places of peace and beauty - places where human life and nature can truly grow together. But the severe lack of funding to repair critical infrastructure is crippling our national park system,” said Roxanne Blackwell, Hon. ASLA, Co-Interim Executive Vice President/CEO and Federal Government Affairs Director of the American Society of Landscape Architects.Landscape architects helped design the first national park and have been involved in their planning and protection ever since. That’s why ASLA was so proud to see The Great American Outdoors Act introduced today. This is a necessary step toward addressing the nearly $12 billion deferred park maintenance backlog. ASLA strongly supports this legislation and we sincerely thank Sen. Portman for his years of leadership on this issue.” 

“The nearly $12 billion National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog, of which 47% is for historic assets, puts historic buildings and other infrastructure at risk of permanent damage or loss. The Great American Outdoors Act is a bipartisan solution that would provide $9.5 billion in dedicated funding over five years for much needed repairs of the National Park Service and other federal agencies. Along with fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this bill would ensure preservation of some of our nation’s most iconic historic places from Independence Hall to Mesa Verde National Park,” said Tom Cassidy, Vice President for Government Relations and Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

"Thank you to Sen. Rob Portman for championing this important legislation to address deferred maintenance on our public lands and waters," said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. "The 130+ member Service and Conservation Corps of The Corps Network look forward to working with our federal resource management agency partners to engage thousands of young adults and veterans in helping repair, improve and maintain our parks and other shared spaces."  

“In Genesis we are commanded to be caretakers of God’s creation. However, our stewardship of the most majestic of God’s creation, our National Parks is dismal.  That’s why we’re thankful to the leadership of Senators Portman (R-OH), Warner (D-VA), Gardner (R-CO), Manchin (D-WV) and Daines (R-MT) for introducing the Great American Outdoors Act. We want every American to enjoy the splendor of God's creation and experience the beauty and grandeur of nature. For many, our National Parks provide profound spiritual experiences and for pro-life evangelical Christians like us, it reminds us of our Creator. This legislation addresses critical needs to restore the grandeur to these God given wonders. The Evangelical Environmental Network and over 300,000 pro-life Christians who have supported defending our National Parks and other Public Lands urge the Senate to quickly act on The Great American Outdoors Act and forward the legislation to the House of Representatives for similar action,” said The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.

"Our National Parks are America's best idea. It is our responsibility to protect and invest in our parks for future generations. The Restore Our Parks Act is a commonsense piece of legislation that ensures generations to come will get to enjoy our country's natural beauty. We are grateful for the bipartisan coalition that made this bill a priority," said Benji Backer, President of the American Conservation Coalition.