USA TODAY: We love our national parks so much they're in disrepair and both parties agree on a fix
National parks are so beloved they're in disrepair. Our National Park Restoration Act to shrink the maintenance backlog shows bipartisanship is alive.
By Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05) and Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID-02)
We love our national parks. But the problem is, we love them too much. The value of good administration and stewardship for our parks has become overwhelmed and the backlog of maintenance needs for our parks has climbed to a whopping $11.6 billion as of fiscal year 2017. Whether it is Crater Lake in Oregon or Yellowstone spanning across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, our parks need our help.
Last fiscal year, the National Park Service’s entire congressional appropriation was a mere $2.9 billion. With four times that in the existing backlog, the math doesn’t add up. Combined with visitation pressures, costs that increase the longer that repairs are delayed, and decades old facilities and infrastructure — it’s difficult to keep pace with needs much less get ahead of them. Under the status quo, the backlog will only continue to grow.
That is why, along with senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Angus King, I-Maine, as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, we have proposed a bipartisan, House-Senate solution to bring that backlog down and help our national parks.
Simply put, our National Park Restoration Act will redirect unused revenues from a variety of energy sources on federal lands into a new fund called the National Park Restoration Fund. This fund will then be used to bring down the maintenance backlog throughout our parks, restoring trails, roads, campgrounds and water systems for generations to come.
Using energy revenues for conservation priorities is nothing new. This is the same revenue source that has been used for decades for the Land and Water Conservation Fund with bipartisan support. Our bill does nothing to require, incentivize or change any aspect of energy production across our federal lands. And it does nothing to take away funds from the LWCF. In fact, our bill actually expands the revenue sources to include renewables like solar, wind and hydropower.
Energy revenues have been used for years to pay for protecting our public lands. Now we need to use these same funds to restore and rebuild them.
The legislative process can be long and should be filled with debate. Throughout that process, we welcome and encourage input from national park advocates. It is why we sought to offer a solution in the first place. We also thank the current supporters of the bill from the conservation, business, and outdoor communities. We can all agree that there is a dire need to take care of our public lands.
Former president Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that “there is nothing so American as our national parks.” Let’s work together to rebuild and restore our parks to the condition they ought to be — the crown jewels of our great nation.
Read out editorial online at USA Today.