May 20, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, laid out his two long-term priorities for the National Park Service (NPS) that he would like to see addressed the FY2023 appropriations package: increased funding to support necessary park maintenance, and an increase to 23,000 full-time equivalent positions staffing America’s greatest treasures. In a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, King explained to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland how the current proposed budget falls short on both items; in response, Secretary Haaland agreed that more needs to be done to support National Parks. This builds on the Chairman’s recent pushes to expand maintenance funding and increase NPS staffing in the upcoming 2023 budget bill.
“First… Quit deferring maintenance in the national parks. The budget that you proposed, happy you proposed it, but it’s $2.8 billion for $400 billion worth of assets. That’s less than 1%. The general industry is 2-4% of value for maintenance. We went through a lot of effort, time, struggle to pass the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, a big part of which as to tackle deferred maintenance. But let’s stop digging the hole, okay? I hope that what you can do is come back with a revised request to work with us to increase the maintenance budget because it’s not adequate,” said Senator King. “$2.8 billion on $400 billion worth of assets is not adequate, and it’s pretty frustrating as someone who really worked hard on the Great American Outdoors Act to see the administration continuing a pattern, and I’m not blaming this administration this goes back 30 years, 40 years, but to continue a pattern of underfunding maintenance, and therefore, we’re going to have to do this again sometime in the future. I don’t want to have to do that. Let’s do our maintenance as we should right now.”
“Second… National Park Service staffing. There are increases in the budget, but again, they’re not adequate. Senator Daines and I have made a recommendation that there should be 23,000 full time equivalents. That’s based on visitation rates and historical visitation rates. The problem is, visitation keeps going up and staffing is staying the same. That’s not fair to visitors. That’s not fair to the Park Services staff that are being stressed and overworked,” Senator King continued. “Yellowstone, for example, staffing is pretty much the same as it was in 2011. Attendance is almost double. And this is true at Acadia, at Yosemite. This is true across the country. So that’s the second point. I’d like to work with you on increasing staffing numbers because, again, it’s not fair to the visitors and to the staff to put them in that position. I hope you’ll work with me on that.”
“Absolutely. Yes, we absolutely agree. I’ve traveled to a number of national parks across the country, and it’s a similar story in many places,” agreed Secretary Haaland. “So we need to make sure that we’re supporting that."
As Chair of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, King has made funding for park maintenance and staffing two of his top priorities. He recently joined with Chair of the House National Parks Subcommittee, Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), in urging Senate appropriators to increase funding for infrastructure maintenance on federal lands, and with Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, in calls for sufficient funds for National Park Service (NPS) staff.
Senator King is among the Senate’s loudest voices advocating for public lands and encouraging outdoor recreation. In the April episode of his “Inside Maine” podcast and radio show, King highlighted the importance of National Parks and outdoor recreation with National Parks Subcommittee Ranking Member Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.); Senator King was also recently awarded the inaugural National Park Foundation (NPF) “Hero” Award. Senator King helped lead the passage the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) into law; the legislation includes the Restore Our Parks Act – a bill led by King – and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Permanent Funding Act. The historic legislative package continues Senator King’s career-long focus on conservation efforts, dating back to his work prior to running for elected office through his years as Governor and his service in the Senate. Over the course of his time in the Blaine House, Governor King was responsible for conserving more land across Maine than all Governors before him combined.