WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) spoke during a Subcommittee hearing in support of the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan bill led by Senators King, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that aims to address the $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), and has been gaining momentum since its introduction last month; the legislation has been backed by key conservation groups and the Interior Department, and was recently cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“In 2003, my wife and I, and our two children, who were then 12 and 9, took off in a RV for 5 and a half months and we circumnavigated America,” said Senator King during the hearing. “And in the process, we went to 14 national parks and innumerable national monuments. So, this issue is very dear to my heart…[national parks] are a wonderful part of our country. The parks are in trouble, however…almost $12 billion in deferred maintenance. In Maine, for example, in Acadia National Park we have about $80 billion in deferred maintenance. By the way, Acadia is not the most visited national park in the country…but I would venture to say it is the most visited national park in the country per square foot. IT is one of the smallest national parks and yet we have 3 million visitors a year – which by the way, is twice the population of Maine… It is a hugely important part of the economy of the region, and to jeopardize what is essentially an economic magnet because of a failure to provide maintenance is just short-sighted in the extreme.”
Senator King is an unmatched supporter of the National Park System, and during his tenure in the Senate has pushed for modernizations to make the parks more accessible to future generations, including the implementation of a pilot program to make entrance passes for parks available online, that was lauded in a Subcommittee hearing last year. The program has been particularly successful in Acadia National Park (ANP): Acadia accounts for 72% of total sales in the pilot program, and online purchases accounted for 10% of the park’s total entrance fee receipts in 2016.
“We commend Senator King’s leadership and support for the Restore Our Parks Act, which addresses our national parks' more than $11 billion in needed repairs," said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. "At Acadia National Park alone, maintenance needs have reached nearly $70 million in overdue repairs including crumbling historic carriage roads, run-down trails and rotting buildings. Senator King’s support of our national parks through this legislation also invests in local communities and will preserve our nation’s most treasured places for future generations to experience and enjoy. We look forward to working together to get this bill over the finish line.”
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 deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. This 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. In addition to Senators King, Portman, Warner, Alexander and Collins, the legislation is supported by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Steve Daines (R-S.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).