Thursday, July 26, 2018

Utah’s Rob Bishop and Democratic counterpart unveil $5 billion plan to start tackling national parks’ maintenance backlog

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop and his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., on Wednesday introduced legislation to earmark some $5.2 billion over five years to fix aging roads, trails and other basic needs at national parks and wildlife refuges that have been piling up for decades. The bipartisan bill, which is matched by a similar Senate measure, is aimed at starting to tackle a nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog at America’s national parks where sewer systems, bridges, paths and structures have been crumbling – or in some cases, not working – because of a lack of funding for the National Park Service. “Our parks are national treasures. Let’s start treating them that way,” Bishop said in introducing the legislation. “This bipartisan bill will put us on the path to improving our parks for future generations.” The bill would help repair public works projects at 400 national parks as well as land managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Education. Money for the work would come from royalties on oil and gas extraction on public lands. While fights over management of public lands – and what lands should be protected – are often partisan, the bill is aimed at crossing that divide. “I’m pleased to join Chairman Bishop to add overdue maintenance and repair work at national parks and public lands to the list of projects eligible for this dedicated funding,” said Grijalva, who often clashes with the Utah Republican. “Chairman Bishop and I share a commitment to providing visitors, both now and in the future, a world-class parks system.” President Donald Trump’s budget plan released earlier this year called for an $18 billion fund to rebuild national parks and wildlife refuges as well as add money to the Native American education system run by the Interior Department. The budget, though, also called for new authority to sell off public lands. That is not part of the new bipartisan bill, which earned positive reviews Wednesday from environmentalists, park aficionados and outdoor and tourism groups...MORE

As I wrote about this issue in April:

Things are always “bipartisan” when it comes to increasing spending, but I say wait a minute, there are questions to be answered and alternatives to be considered.
Over the same amount of time this maintenance backlog was accruing, how much was spent for land acquisition?  Where would the backlog stand if all the money for land acquisition had been spent on maintenance? And how much of that $11 billion is attributed to these new acquisitions?
Shouldn't there be a tradeoff here? No moneys for acquisition until the backlog is met? After all, lands that have a high priority for acquisition could still be acquired by exchange.

Further, we know there are many Parks that aren't really deserving of that designation. They are only there because a particular Rep. or Senator was in a powerful enough position to have them so designated.  We have a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) to address this issue for military bases. Isn't it time we have a PRAC to review our national parks and monuments?

Congress should consider both of the above prior to establishing a permanent fund to increase spending for our park system. No additional land acquisitions until the backlog is completed and establish a Park Realignment and Closure Commission to carefully review each existing national park and monument.

It's just hard for me to believe that Republicans, admitting these lands haven't been properly managed or funded, would propose more money for maintenance while continuing to fund the acquisition of even more lands. Shouldn't they fix what they have before acquiring more? Do they really believe the federal estate is too small?


Dave Skinner said...

The funding should be sourced from OCS in lieu of LWCF acquisition. CONSERVATION of what is already federal.

Frank DuBois said...