Warner, colleagues reintroduce legislation to fund overdue national parks maintenance

mark warnerU.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to address the $12 billion National Parks Service maintenance backlog, which has delayed the upkeep of visitor centers, rest stops, trails, campgrounds and transportation infrastructure operated by NPS in the Commonwealth and across the country.

The Restore Our Parks Act, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last year, would take existing government revenue and allocate it to the chronically underfunded National Park Service.

Virginia’s national parks, which host over 25 million visitors every year, are in critical need of this funding to continue preserving some of the nation’s most precious national treasures. Shenandoah National Park alone has outstanding maintenance needs totaling almost $80 million, while Colonial National Historical Park is more than $420 million behind schedule. To make matters worse, recent reports indicate that the 35-day government shutdown exacerbated the NPS maintenance backlog and delayed important work for readying park facilities, roads and trails for the busy summer season.

“The deferred maintenance backlog at national park sites in Virginia is currently over a billion dollars. The Commonwealth trails only California and the District of Columbia in total deferred maintenance needs. Colonial National Historical Park, which is home to Historic Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield, has over $400 million in deferred maintenance needs alone,” said Sen. Warner. “We owe it to our Commonwealth and to our country to pass this bill and clear the $12 billion maintenance backlog that is holding back essential repairs and renovations at our cherished national parks. This problem will only worsen if we fail to act.”

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country,” Sen. Portman said. “My visits to various national parks in Ohio last year made it clear that we must pass this legislation to ensure that they have sufficient resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects. This legislation will also help tackle the more than $100 million in maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national parks and will ensure the National Park Service can continue preserving American treasures like Cuyahoga Valley National Park.”

“Today, too many of our national parks are in bad shape. American families spending their vacations in our national parks are often shocked to find that so many of the roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers are run down or even closed,” Sen. Alexander said. “The Restore Our Parks Act would be the biggest help to the National Park Service in 50 years – it would cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks and help restore our 418 national parks so Americans can enjoy them. The legislation is supported by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, the Trump Administration and more than 100 conservation groups. When an idea this good – fixing our national parks for future generations – gets this much bipartisan support, it’s going to happen sooner or later. It is my hope we pass the legislation as soon as this year.”

“From Acadia to Zion, the National Park System captures our country’s diverse natural beauty and is a proud reminder of America’s dedication to preserving public land for all its citizens,” Sen. King said. “As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.’ We have a collective responsibility to maintain this spirit of the wilderness in our National Parks – and this starts with the $12 billion maintenance backlog. With strong bipartisan support, this bill will ensure our parks are well-maintained so generations of visitors can experience the wonders of our National Parks for years to come.”

“The Restore Our Parks Act would provide billions of dollars to address the multibillion-dollar repair backlog at our national parks,” said Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to restore America’s parks. “This investment would help preserve these treasured places and support sites that generate more than $18 billion in annual spending in nearby communities by park visitors.”

“For years, our national parks have been plagued with underfunding while also dealing with a mounting backlog of repair needs, totaling nearly $12 billion. Grand Canyon’s water and sewer systems, built during World War II, are failing. Roads in Yellowstone that were originally built in 1905 for carriages, not the millions of cars and RVs that use them today, are sinking. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King, park staff could get the funding they need to fix our national parks. The bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act would make a much needed and significant investment to address these and so many more infrastructure needs in national parks across the country, ensuring they are ready to welcome the next generation of park visitors,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association.

“In 2018, our National Parks contributed $35.8 billion in total economic output and supported 306,000 American jobs. National Parks are a huge attraction for visitors across the country and around the world, which makes investment in the maintenance of our national parks not just an environmental necessity but also an economic priority. U.S. Travel applauds Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for reintroducing the Restore Our Parks Act, which will invest in national park infrastructure and facilities and shrink the nearly $12 billion in deferred maintenance facing our parks,” said Tori Barnes, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, U.S. Travel Association.

“The nearly $12 billion National Park System deferred maintenance backlog jeopardizes some of our nation’s most iconic historic resources and cultural artifacts. By creating a reliable federal funding source to reduce the backlog, this legislation will enable the National Park Service and other federal agencies to save the historic structures, landscapes, and necessary infrastructure that enable the public to safely enjoy the places that reflect our nation’s history. We commend Reps. Bishop and Kilmer and Sens. Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for their leadership in creating a bipartisan path for Congress to secure the future of important historic and cultural resources now at risk,” said Thomas J. Cassidy, vice president for government relations and policy for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The time is now for Congress to address this national crisis, particularly in the Nation’s Capital. The National Mall hosts more than 35 million visits each year and has the highest deferred maintenance bill of any National Park across the country. As the greatest symbol of American Democracy, we must improve and preserve this historic legacy for generations to come. We express our gratitude to Representatives Bishop and Kilmer in the House and Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King in the Senate for their steadfast leadership of this important legislation,” said Catherine Townsend, president and CEO, the Trust for the National Mall.

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.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander and King, other original cosponsors include Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kamala Harris (D-CA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Gary Peters (D-MI), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Steve Daines (R-MT).

A similar bill is being introduced in the House today by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and has the backing of more than 90 cosponsors.

A list of additional organizations supportive of addressing the NPS backlog can be found here.

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2017*

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park$1,998,224
Assateague Island NS$2,774,577
Blue Ridge Parkway$186,619,608
Booker T Washington National Monument$1,370,913
Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP$327,072
Colonial National Historical Park$421,872,932
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park$1,848,864
Fort Monroe National Monument$2,280,548
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP$10,371,731
George Washington Birthplace National Monument$1,306,614
George Washington Memorial Parkway$233,441,316
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park$64,760
Maggie L Walker National Historic Site$531,648
Manassas National Battlefield Park​$6,516,560
Petersburg National Battlefield$11,754,041
Prince William Forest Park$18,619,932
Richmond National Battlefield Park$6,581,205
Shenandoah National Park$79,208,621
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts$31,149,289
Total$1,018,629,457

*Due to the continuously changing nature of facilities data, only final, year-end data is reported by the National Park Service. The last year for which data is available is FY 2017.

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