On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion backlog of repairs and maintenance within the National Park Service (NPS).
The bill—a compromise between the previously introduced National Park Service Legacy Act and the National Park Restoration Act—would establish a fund called the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund.” This fund—which would allocate existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development—would address the ever-growing backlog of maintenance and repairs needed in our national parks. We commend U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) for introducing a bill that provides a dedicated funding solution to this issue, and for recognizing how crucial it is that we maintain and preserve these inimitable national treasures.
“Our national parks amaze, astound and awe millions of Americans each year—but in order to accommodate so many visitors, the parks need to be well-maintained,” said Senator King. “The existing $12 billion maintenance backlog threatens to prevent future generations from accessing these beautiful public lands, which is simply unacceptable. This bipartisan legislation would help address this backlog and ensure that parks from Acadia to Zion will remain open and available for years to come.”
While we know our national parks are a huge draw for visitors around the country and the world, the parks also have a significant economic impact. In 2017, visitors spent $18 billion in gateway communities: towns and cities whose job markets and economies are buoyed by close proximity to the national parks. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, the $18 billion in visitor spending supported 306,000 jobs and generated nearly $35 billion in national economic output. And if the nearly $12 billion in maintenance and repairs were addressed, it is estimated that 110,000 more jobs could be created or supported.
There is nothing quite like the beauty and wonder that our national parks inspire: visitors travel from all over the world to see the eruption of Old Faithful, or to peer over the ledge of the Grand Canyon. Of the 37.6 million overseas visitors who traveled to the U.S. in 2016, more than a third of them visited a national park or monument. As the U.S. seeks to grow its share of the international travel market, it is crucial that we maintain one of its biggest draws for visitation: our national parks.
We applaud Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for recognizing that the backlog of maintenance is a problem that absolutely must be resolved. Our national parks—the historical, the awe-inspiring and the naturally beautiful—embody the American experience, and we must do all that we can to maintain them for our visitors, communities and for generations to come.