The National Parks Action Fund supports H.R. 1957, the legislative vehicle for the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act.
National parks are places of inspiration with soaring mountains, cascading rivers, winding trails, and incredible wildlife watching. They tell the story of our democracy from the place where the constitution was debated and signed to the places that speak to the ongoing fights for civil rights. Congress has been prescient to recognize the importance of preserving the nation’s treasures that are part of our heritage.
Many national parks are close to a hundred years old and it is showing. Years of underfunding has forced park managers to often make difficult choices between providing visitor services or repairing worn out facilities. The Grand Canyon’s aging water system, which supplies drinking water for millions of visitors is falling apart, while the Blue Ridge Parkway is deteriorating. Yet, the National Park Service doesn’t receive nearly enough funding from Congress to keep up with even the most basic repairs and maintenance our parks need.
H.R. 1957 would address part of the Park Service’s nearly $13 billion maintenance and repair backlog, in addition to the nearly $8 billion in deferred maintenance on other federal public lands, through dedicated funding of $9.5 billion from energy revenue over five years. Additionally, this bill would permanently dedicate $900 million annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund which protects our national parks and public lands from incompatible residential and commercial development.
As our country continues to deal with and recover from a global health pandemic, the public, understandably, wants to get outdoors and into their national parks. The mental and spiritual healing that comes with spending time in our national parks is, after all, one of the very reasons they were created. In addition, national parks are major contributors to national and local economies. Recently, the Department of the Interior released 2019 data revealing visitor spending in communities near national parks resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 340,500 jobs. This means, in the last five years, visitor spending has increased by $4.1 billion and the effect on the U.S. economy grew by $9.7 billion. Enhancing and fixing our national parks is a down payment on our country’s economic future.
The National Parks Action Fund considers votes related to the Great American Outdoors Act significant votes to protect America’s unparalleled natural and cultural heritage found in and around the National Park System and may use them in our scorecard for the 116th Congress.