The United States Senate will take a “critical next step” next week on compromise legislation proposed by United States Senator Lamar Alexander to eliminate $6.5 billion of the deferred maintenance backlog at 417 National Park Service sites, Senator Alexander said on Tuesday. He said $215 million of that backlog is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks announced today it will hold a hearing on the legislation – the Restore Our Parks Act – on July 11.
Senator Alexander said, “This legislation could do more to restore national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century.
The bill will greatly reduce the deferred maintenance backlog in our parks and prevent situations such as with the Look Rock Campground on Chilhowee Mountain in the Smokies which once served 5,000 families a year, but has been closed for repairs for five years.”
Last week, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Alexander (R-Tn.) and Angus King (I-Me.) introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The consensus proposal is the product of bipartisan discussions among the senators who had previously introduced similar bills, the National Park Service Legacy Act (Warner/Portman) and the National Park Restoration Act (Alexander/King). In addition to these four members, Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. V.) and Cory Gardner (R-Co.) are cosponsors of the bill.
Senator Alexander said that as a result of the compromise among senators the Restore Our Parks Act is gaining near unanimous support. The consensus legislation has been praised by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks Campaign, and the Outdoor Industry Association.
NOTE: 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 are currently deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.