Portman Taking Leadership Role in Protecting America's National Parks
National Parks are more than just lands; they’re part of a cultural legacy that we should share with the next generation. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the first 100 years of the National Park Service and commit to ensuring that we preserve and protect our parks for the next century.
For more than a decade Senator Portman – who serves as co-chairman of the Congressional Friends of the National Park Service Centennial – has taken a leadership role in protecting America’s National Parks in Congress.
Senator Portman is a lifelong outdoorsman and a frequent visitor to Ohio’s National Parks. Earlier this month, he biked through Cuyahoga National Park, one of the Top 10 most popular National Park sites in the country. Ohio is home to eight National Park sites, with more than 2.6 million visitors every year. Ohio also has nearly 4,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, two national heritage areas, and 72 national historic landmarks.
To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service and to ensure that our national park sites are protected, Senator Portman co-authored the National Park Service Centennial Act, which passed the Senate during National Parks Week in April.
This bill would set up two funds to help the Park Service be more effective and to address the backlog of projects that need to be completed. It would officially authorize the National Park Centennial Challenge Fund, which has already leveraged $25 million in federal dollars into an additional $45 million in matching funds from private donors. This fund will finance signature projects and programs to enhance the National Park System.
The other fund is a non-profit Second Century Endowment Fund at the National Park Foundation (NPF) to reduce the nearly $12 billion national park maintenance backlog. Nearly $1 billion of that backlog is for sites in Ohio. This new fund is a win-win because it will improve our national parks and save taxpayers' dollars by allowing the NPF to leverage private donations to address the maintenance backlog.
Portman’s bill follows up on his work as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, when he launched the National Parks Centennial Initiative in 2006. This initiative provided new public and private investment to prepare for the Centennial in 2016.
Senator Portman has also helped reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is the primary source of funding for acquiring and protecting land. Portman worked to reauthorize the LWCF through Fiscal Year 2018 and to secure $450 million the program in Fiscal Year 2016. He also voted in support of the permanent reauthorization of the LWCF, which is included in the Senate’s bipartisan energy bill that passed the Senate in April and is now being negotiated with the House.
Last year Portman personally requested that a Wright Brothers Factory Building be purchased using LWCF money and earlier this year the Park Service announced they would in fact purchase the factory to add to the experience at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park.
LWCF funds have helped develop 37,000 projects nationwide, including projects throughout Ohio. Last year, Portman sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to provide LWCF funds for the acquisition of two buildings within the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. The buildings were the first in the world built specifically for airplane construction. Because of Senator Portman’s efforts, President Obama included LCWF funding for the building in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. In April, Portman visited the Wright Brothers’ Wright Cycle and Print Shop in Dayton with his family, and is now working to help ensure that Congress provides the necessary funds to acquire the buildings.
For his work to protect our national parks, Portman has received the 2012 NPCA Centennial Award and the 2015 Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award. Most recently, he received the National Parks Service Centennial Champion Award from Cuyahoga Valley National Park in July.
Together we can make the Park Service’s second century just as successful as its first and ensure that the America which our grandchildren inherit will be just as beautiful as it is today.