Committee Approves Bipartisan Consensus Legislation to Address $12 Billion National Park Service Backlog in Deferred and Overdue Maintenance 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) praised the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passage of the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The measure passed by a vote of 19-4. The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country. 

“Today’s committee approval is good news and an important step forward in our efforts to address the long-delayed maintenance projects at our national parks,” Portman said.  “For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country.  But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have sufficient resources to maintain our national parks. This bipartisan legislation will help tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national park sites. I’d like to thank Senators Warner, Alexander, and King as well as the cosponsors of this legislation for their leadership on this issue and urge my colleagues to support it when it comes to the floor.” 

“For over a year, I’ve led bipartisan efforts in the Senate to address the state of disrepair of critical infrastructure in the National Park System. It’s alarming the rate at which the maintenance backlog at the Park Service continues to grow, with Virginia adding $250 million in the last year, surpassing a billion dollars and ranking third among all states in total deferred maintenance. We can no longer wait to fix the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks and ignore the long-term effects of allowing these national treasures to simply crumble. I’m very pleased that the bipartisan, consensus bill we introduced earlier this year has now cleared this important hurdle and look forward to working with my colleagues from across the aisle and the Administration to make sure it becomes law,” said Warner. 

“This legislation could do more to restore national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century, and the reason we need to restore them is so Americans can enjoy the 417 sites -- from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Grand Canyon to Yosemite – for generations to come,” Alexander said. “The bill will cut in half the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our parks and prevent situations such as with the Look Rock Campground on Chilhowee Mountain in the Smokies which once served 5,000 families a year, but has been closed for repairs for five years. Today’s approval of this bipartisan bill puts it one step closer to becoming law, and it is my hope that Congress is able to pass our proposal to help restore our parks this year.” 

“Last month, I accompanied the Acting Director of the National Park Service to Acadia National Park – and while the views were as beautiful as ever, the situation behind the scenes is not so picturesque as the park grapples with serious maintenance backlogs,” said Senator King. “Acadia has delayed a number of important projects worth a total of $60 million that are vital to ensuring that visitors can continue to enjoy the park’s natural wonders with a high quality visitor experience.  It’s not alone in that struggle, as national parks across the country currently face a backlog of $12 billion. These lands are a national promise to leave behind a better world than we received, but these massive backlogs show that we’re not currently living up to that responsibility. Today’s markup is a step in the right direction for a bipartisan bill that will address this backlog and protect our national parks for future generations." 

Rebuilding National Parks infrastructure has been at the top of my priority list since before I was even sworn in to office. I'm happy to see the Restore our Parks Act pass with such strong bipartisan support. We have 417 national parks across the country, unfortunately we also have a $12 billion backlog in maintenance needs spanning everything from roads and bridges to visitors centers and restrooms. Thanks to Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King national parks are one step closer to getting the vital funding they need to rebuild the aging infrastructure,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

“The importance of preserving our history, culture and public lands is something we can all agree on,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Tackling the deferred maintenance in our national parks is not a political issue but an American one, and all who are supporting this important legislation recognize that. We commend the dedication and leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for working to push this important bill through congress, and making a strong investment in our national parks.” 

"Key committees in the Senate and House of Representatives have given their bipartisan stamp of approval to legislation to fix our aging and deteriorating national parks,” said Marcia Argust, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks. “With strong bipartisan support for our parks not only on Capitol Hill but in communities across the nation, Congress should act now to get the legislation over the finish line this year.” 

“OIA applauds this bipartisan effort to solve the National Park Service backlog issue and appreciates the dedication of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King to this effort,” said Amy Roberts, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “The backlog impacts the recreation economy and Americans’ ability to explore and enjoy their public lands. As we know, and passage of bills like the Restore Our Parks Act out of committee shows, the health and vitality of America’s public lands system is a bipartisan issue that unites us. We look forward to continued progress and appreciate the Senate bill Sponsors’ focus on the critical infrastructure that supports the growing $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.” 

“Our nation’s parks can be key economic engines for many gateway counties across the country,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “With National Park Service infrastructure in need of repair, the visitor experience is diminished, and surrounding communities see declines in tourism. We thank Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for sponsoring the Restore Our Parks Act. Counties urge action on this legislation to strengthen our national parks, support conservation and cultivate outdoor experiences that are second to none.” 

“Our national parks are a huge attraction for visitors from all over the world. Not only are our national parks environmental treasures, but they are also an incredible economic engine for our country. In 2017 alone, the national parks generated $18 billion in economic demand, supporting thousands of local jobs and businesses. The Restore Our Parks Act, would help protect our National Parks for future generations by investing in their maintenance. We applaud Sen. Portman and bill supporters for ensuring our parks can be accessed and enjoyed well into the future,” said Tori Barnes, Senior Vice-President of Government Relations, US Travel. 

Some of our nation’s most iconic historic resources and cultural artifacts are threatened by years of inadequate funding to provide for their preservation. The bipartisan support for this legislation in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives affirms how vital the future of our national parks and public lands is to our heritage and our local economies. Only through dedicated and reliable funding like that in the Restore Our Parks Act can the National Park Service save these treasured places currently at risk from permanent damage or loss. We applaud Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for their leadership and commitment to our national parks and look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to secure passage this year,said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

NOTE: The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. 

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