National Parks Continue to Bridge a Divided Congress, Yet Work Remains to Address Their Challenges

National Parks Action Fund Holds Members of Congress Accountable on Parks Voting Record

CONTACT: Angela Gonzales, Press Secretary

WASHINGTON – According to the National Parks Action Fund’s 2022 Congressional Scorecard issued today, protecting and enhancing our national parks remained a priority for the majority of the 117th Congress, which passed legislation to expand our National Park System and provide critical funding to hire more park staff and make our parks more resilient to the effects of climate change.

For years, the National Parks Action Fund (Action Fund) has pushed Congress to show their support for our national parks and hold members accountable for their parks’ voting record. Since the Action Fund launched its first Congressional Scorecard in 2016, lawmakers have increasingly voted in support of America’s favorite places. And this year’s scorecard shows that fixing and safeguarding our national parks and public lands remain a critical issue for many, as over half of Congress received an A rating for their pro-park votes.

“Every one of our more than 420 national parks are experiencing the effects of budget cuts, staffing shortages, record visitation and crumbling infrastructure,” said Theresa Pierno, National Parks Action Fund Board Chair. “And this summer, climate disasters wreaked havoc on national parks and surrounding communities like the devastating floods at Yellowstone, historic droughts at Lake Mead and Grand Canyon, and raging wildfires at Yosemite. Fortunately, the majority of the 117th Congress took major steps forward to repair our national parks infrastructure and support the largest investment our country has ever made to combat climate change, including at our national parks.”

The Action Fund, affiliated with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), evaluated park-related votes taken by the House and Senate during the 117th Congress. The scored votes include a variety of issues affecting parks, including key votes concerning park infrastructure, climate change impacts, cabinet nominations, and protections for water and wildlife.

According to the Action Fund’s 2022 Congressional Scorecard:

  • Senators receiving an A went up 6% from 2020
  • 86% of House members voted to expand and diversify the National Park System
  • 51% of Congress voted for parks and got an A
  • Percentage of all members of Congress receiving an A went up 2% from 2020

This scorecard brings to light the power our national parks have to push the country forward and unify Congress even at a time when it has been bitterly at odds. Lawmakers across the aisle came together to achieve several park victories, including the designation of Amache National Historic Site that preserves the Amache incarceration camp and honors the people who were once imprisoned there based solely on their ethnicity. The House of Representatives also overwhelmingly supported the establishment of the Blackwell School National Historic Site that tells the powerful story of segregated education in the United States.

“In order for our national parks to grow stronger in their second century, it is vital that everyone see themselves reflected in these beautiful places,” added Pierno. “The Action Fund has long urged Congress to expand our National Park System to tell the full American story. And while this Congress made progress, many important stories of American history and our past successes, struggles and injustices remain untold. It’s vital that Congress ensures that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to parks, and these places tell a more complete story of the nation’s rich and diverse history.”

From the volcanic landscapes of Haleakalā to the sacred ancestral home of the Pueblo peoples at Chaco Culture to the rocky coastlines of Acadia, Americans want these places protected and have time and again called on Congress to do so. It’s easy for members of Congress to say they love national parks, but the decisions they make in Washington have profound effects on all national parks. The 117th Congress had ample opportunities to support national parks like safeguarding environmental bedrock laws that give the public a voice in how their public lands are managed and protecting our country’s most iconic wildlife and their habitats. Yet, many members voted against these measures.

“Congress is the caretaker of our National Park System. But as I witnessed during my time on Capitol Hill, partisanship too often gets in the way,” said Rick Healy, National Parks Action Fund Board Member and former staff member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “This scorecard should be a wake-up call for members of Congress to put party aside and work together to make sure national park staff have the resources and support they need to care for our parks. There’s too much at stake.”

Despite the wins national parks received during the 117th Congress, there remains much work to be done. National parks still face challenges like chronic underfunding, a growing backlog of repairs needs and threats from fossil fuel extraction.

“We must hold our federal elected officials accountable for the decisions they make that impact our most iconic places,” added Healy. “We will continue to call on Congress to better staff parks, carry on its work to repair parks and address climate change, and support solutions to overcrowding.”

View the Action Fund’s 2022 Congressional Scorecard here.


About National Parks Action Fund
National Parks Action Fund (Action Fund) is the affiliated 501(c)(4) of National Parks Conservation Association. The Action Fund’s goals are to protect, restore, and fund the National Park System by informing the public about threats facing our parks, educating members of Congress about proposals to help parks, and influencing candidates’ positions to forward those proposals.