At Press Conference, Portman Urges Colleagues to Pass Bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined members of the House and Senate at a press conference to highlight his bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act and call on both chambers to pass the bill. The Restore Our Parks Act is bipartisan legislation Portman introduced with Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) to address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have led similar legislation in the House of Representatives. The legislation has 36 cosponsors in the Senate and 207 cosponsors in the House.
Portman urged his colleagues to join him in supporting the bipartisan legislation as the $12 billion backlog is a debt our generation owes future generations of national park and site visitors saying: “Let’s fix these things now so that the costs don’t compound. So it doesn’t become more expensive for taxpayers. It’s our responsibility, it’s a debt unpaid… This is about a national treasure, our National Parks, and not allowing them to continue to see the kind of damage and corrosion...”
Transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“Rob, thank you. Congressman Bishop, Congressman Kilmer for leading this effort in the House. They now have 207 cosponsors in the House, that’s awfully darn close to 2018. We’re working on it here in the Senate. We have 36 cosponsors. As of this afternoon, thanks to the people behind me, we’re going to have a lot more cosponsors. Right? I want to thank all of the groups that are arrayed behind me here. This has been an incredible grassroots effort. When I go home to Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park – again, which is right behind me here – is the 13th most visited park in the country. I’ve seen this abandoned home. This photograph is of one of the homes that does need to be demolished, it’s a safety hazard. Law enforcement is concerned about it and yet we don’t have the funding because our funding tends to be the discretionary funding to just sort of keep the parks going, the programs going, but not to deal with the infrastructure. It’s time to step up, and it’s a debt unpaid. When you think about it, this is exactly the sort of thing that we should be using the mandatory spending, yes, that comes from oil and gas revenues to go into these immediate needs in our national parks. It’s actually a $12 billion maintenance backlog, our legislation provides $6.5 billion of that, which the National Park Service itself has said that those are the most urgent needs, what they call the priority needs.
“That $6.5 billion will allow, as my colleague Senator Warner has talked about, for parts of our parks to be reopened. Some visitors go to our parks and they literally can’t go to a campground or they can’t use a restroom facility. Or, in the case of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we have leakage in our visitor center, we have a bridge that is falling apart. If you don’t fix these things now, the cost will only mount. That’s one thing as a conservative, as a fiscal Republican, I think is the appropriate focus of this Congress, which is to say, let’s fix these things now so that the costs don’t compound. So it doesn’t become more expensive for taxpayers. It’s our responsibility, it’s a debt unpaid.
“To Mark Warner, he actually came to me with this idea and he said, ‘Why don’t we look at this revenue stream?’ Because we know we have to fix our parks and we’ve done some other legislation in the past together along with Congressman Bishop and others to help ensure that we have public-private funding going into the parks. We’ve done some really good things in terms of the Centennial Match Program, but now we have to step up big time.
“This would be the most historic parks bill in several generations because it would deal with this huge problem of the $12 billion maintenance backlog. So again, thank you to Senator Warner, Senator King who is here and has been a stalwart. Senator Alexander, who couldn’t be here today but has been incredibly helpful on this. To Senator Murkowski and Senator Manchin of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate. They have agreed to move forward with this. We’ve already gotten it out of committee in the past, we’re going to get it out this year. This is one where, as Senator Warner said, we should be able to find not just bipartisanship, but nonpartisanship. This is about a national treasure, our national parks, and not allowing them to continue to see the kind of damage and corrosion of our national treasure that you see behind me here.
“To all the groups, thank you! Thank you.”