A proposed bill introduced to Congress on Wednesday by a group of bipartisan senators looks to fund the National Park Service’s growing maintenance backlog. The National Park Restoration Act was also introduced with major support from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
According to the press release from the Department of the Interior, “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.”
Deriving revenue from the leasing of public lands and waters for natural resource extraction falls in line with the Trump administration’s intentions to vastly expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling. As The Washington Examiner notes, “The department's proposed repair fund could be paid for with federal energy revenue, including oil, gas and coal leasing, as well as solar, wind and geothermal development.”
The deferred maintenance backlog is a very immediate issue. The NPS estimates that its maintenance backlog is between $11 and $12 billion. And considering that national parks saw another 330 million visitors in 2017, these repairs are needed now more than ever as the deterioration of infrastructure within the parks may only worsen.
But according to Tennessee’s Times Free Press, “Under the National Park Restoration Act, the fund would receive 50 percent of energy production revenue from federal lands that is not already allocated to other purposes, with the rest of energy production revenue going to reduce the federal debt.”
The bill would still need to be passed in both chambers and signed by the president before it could become law. Secretary Zinke does emphasize that these fixes need to be made to our parks: ”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 is not a republican or democrat issue, this is an American issue.”
And environmental groups can certainly agree with that sentiment. However, the process this bill would entail might be a tough pill to swallow for those hoping to keep the focus of public lands and waters on preservation and conservation.
Tell Secretary Zinke to immediately halt his extremist pro-polluter agenda and start fulfilling his mission to protect America's public lands and environment: https://t.co/MOgafCUp85 https://t.co/8sZZ9RXCne
— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC) March 7, 2018
This bill already has some bipartisan support, but it remains to be seen if it can assuage both sides of the aisle in order to become law.
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