On October 2, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to consider and approve the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 3172), which would provide much-needed funding to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog within the U.S. National Park System. The bill advanced through the committee by a vote of 19-4 and will now await a vote by the full Senate chamber. The committee’s approval of this bill is a welcome development for counties, who are important partners in ensuring the vitality of the National Park System and provide numerous essential services to both residents and visitors of public lands.
S. 3172 would establish the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to direct $6.5 billion over five years to address deferred maintenance needs in national parks. The fund would be financed by unobligated royalties from energy development on federal lands and waters.
Visitors to our nation’s parks spent over $18.4 billion in 2016 alone, supporting nearly $35 billion in overall economic activity and over 318,000 jobs across the country. Further, these visitors contribute sales and lodging tax revenue to the counties that host them. These revenues allow county governments, which are prohibited from collecting property taxes on federal public lands, to provide essential services to residents and visitors alike, including law enforcement, search and rescue, waste management and infrastructure maintenance.
Despite the critical importance of our National Park System to nearby local economies and to the United States at large, the National Park Service faces a growing challenge in adequately maintaining its aging infrastructure to ensure that visitors can experience the parks’ natural beauty and learn about our nation’s history. Currently, The National Park Service maintenance backlog stands at an estimated $11.3 billion. Deferred maintenance needs affect almost every national park across the country and consist of crucial repairs to aging historical structures as well as thousands of miles of roads and trails, bridges, tunnels, sewers and drainage conveyances. Failure to address this backlog in a timely manner will undermine the integrity of our parks and deter future visitation, harming local economies and putting a strain on community resources.
Counties support the passage of S. 3172 and its enactment into law as we work to ensure future generations can benefit from our National Park System and the unmatched outdoor recreation and conservation experience that it provides.
- To watch the Senate hearing on S. 3172, click here.