March 24, 2018  
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Zinke Partners with ​Congress on Bipartisan Bill to Fix Our National Parks
Zinke Partners with ​Congress on Bipartisan Bill to Fix Our National Parks
Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke​ joined ​​U.S. ​Senator​s​ Lamar Alexander (R-TN)​ and Angus King (I-ME)​, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and ​others to introduce a bipartisan bill to rebuild ​America's National Park​s. The proposed ​bill would​ use up to $18 billion in revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters to​ establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for “National Park Restoration”. The bill ​follows the blueprint laid out in Secretary Zinke and President Trump's budget proposal, the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund.​ The Alexander/King bill's cosponsors are: Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO)​, and Thom Tillis (R-NC). This bill fulfills one of the priorities laid out in President Trump’s legislative framework for rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

"​Infrastructure is an investment, not merely an expense. And every dollar we put in to rebuilding our parks, will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. Since the early days of my confirmation, I've been talking with members of the House and Senate about how we can use energy revenue to rebuild and revitalize our parks and communities," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.​ "Infrastructure is also about access for all Americans. Not all visitors to our parks​ ​have the​ ​ability to hike with a 30-pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities. ​ ​In order for families with young kids​, ​elderly grandparents​, or persons with disabilities​ to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers. This bill is the largest investment in National Parks in our nation's history. This is not a republican or democrat issue, this is an American issue, and ​I think that the bipartisan body of lawmakers who put this bill forward is proof."

​“This legislation will help address the over $11 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks, including the $215 million backlog of projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” Senator Alexander said. “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures – and it has a tremendous economic impact in East Tennessee, attracting nearly twice the visitors of any other national park. Addressing the maintenance backlog will help attract even more visitors and create more jobs for Tennesseans. We must continue to work together to find solutions to the many challenges facing our public lands, and this legislation takes an important step toward doing that.”

“Montanans are blessed to have America’s most beautiful national parks right outside our front doors,” said Senator Daines. “These critical economic drivers must be maintained and protected so that our outdoor economy can continue to grow and our parks remain accessible to all Montanans. This bipartisan bill is a commonsense step forward to ensure that the challenges facing our national parks are finally addressed.”

“For more than a century, our national parks have inspired and amazed countless visitors,” said Senator King. “Unfortunately, these parks don’t take care of themselves – they need maintenance to ensure that future generations can experience the same wonder that so many Americans already have. This bill is a practical step to help clear the existing maintenance backlog, and protect these treasured lands for years to come.”

“As someone who loves public lands and our National Parks, I am thrilled to be standing here today with Secretary Zinke, Senator Alexander, Senator King, and Congressman Schrader to propose a solution to fixing the backlog maintenance,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “Growing up in Yellowstone’s backyard, it is important that we pay it forward to future visitors that deserve the same quality experience as past generations. There are many people who deserve credit for bringing this issue to the forefront and I look forward to working with them to advance legislation that fixes our Parks.”

“Oregonians have a genuine appreciation for the outdoors and our National Parks and recreation areas,” said Representative Schrader. “Our ability to enjoy and appreciate that natural beauty is limited when upkeep on our federal lands isn’t sufficiently funded allowing critical maintenance to fall by the wayside. Not only does that impact our enjoyment of the land, but it poses serious risks to the protection of these areas and hurts our communities that rely on the economic benefit from visitors. Currently, our national parks are in dire need of maintenance with a more than ten billion dollar backlog. Our bill provides an innovative solution by creating the National Park Restoration Fund which will provide mandatory funding from unutilized resources already available to us, to bring that backlog down and ensure our National Park System is well and safely kept for generations to come.”

The National Park Service estimates that its maintenance and repair backlog exceeds $11.6 billion. In 2017, 330 million people visited the 417 NPS sites across the country. The NPS ​completed over $650 million in maintenance and repair work in FY 2017, but aging facilities, ​high visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010.

Some examples​ of maintenance projects​ include:

​​• Everglades National Park (Florida) - Showers, campgrounds and lodges that were destroyed during a hurricane more than a decade ago remain broken. Total Everglades maintenance backlog cost, more than $90 million.
​​• Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana) - Earlier this month, an observation deck overlooking Lake Michigan crumbled and fell to the​ ​ground after years of erosion. Total Indiana Dunes maintenance backlog cost, more than $26 million.
​​• Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) - A pipeline, and the only infrastructure to deliver water to the South Rim Village of 19,634 people daily for drinking, cooking and firefighting, breaks several times a year putting the well-being of the community including park lodges, visitor centers, homes, and Grand Canyon hikers at risk. Total Grand Canyon maintenance backlog cost, more than $329 million.
• ​​Statue of Liberty National Monument​ (NY/NJ) - $34.45 million is needed to stabilize the Ellis Island Seawall, which protects Ellis Island from erosion of wave action. $3.77 million is also needed to rehabilitate the Fire-Life-Safety System in the Main Immigration Building, where 2.2 million annual visitors start and end their visit to the island.​ Total Statue of Liberty National Monument maintenance backlog cost, more than $166 million.

While National Parks have enjoyed historic visitation over the past few years, many Americans have never been to a NPS site and are unfamiliar with what infrastructure they hold. Here's a quick look at National Park Service infrastructure across the board:

More than 5,500 miles of paved roads
More than 1,700 bridges and tunnels
More than 17,000 miles of trails
More than 1,300 campgrounds
More than 24,000 buildings including more than 500 visitor centers, 425 park lodges and hotel buildings, 3,870 housing units and more than 3,700 bathrooms
More than 1,000 miles of water pipelines
More than 1,500 water systems
More than 1,800 wastewater systems
More than 500 electrical systems

Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 (Archive on Wednesday, March 28, 2018)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre

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