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May 18, 2021

King Emphasizes Need for National Park Director, Adding “People Want to Get Outdoors”

Senator seeks regular updates on implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act which includes the King-backed Restore Our Parks Act to address maintenance backlog at national parks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, today pressed Shannon Estenoz, nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, on the importance of stable leadership at the National Park Service (NPS) citing that there has not been a Senate-confirmed Director of the NPS since 2017. During his remarks, which came during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator King also highlighted the need for increased transparency from the Department of the Interior as it implements last year’s historic conservation legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act, which provides billions to support critical maintenance work at national parks throughout the nation. 

SENATOR KING: “First, Ms. Estenoz, we need a park director. We have gone almost five years without a Director of the National Parks. I hope that will be among your highest priorities. Any organization needs a leader, and at this particular moment, I hope that that’s something you can take back to the Administration.”


ESTENOZ: “Thank you, Senator, and I can assure you that a National Park Service Director is a high priority for the Administration, and for me.”


SENATOR KING: “Thank you. Secondly, I’d like to invite you to Maine. We have two gems, Acadia National Park, and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. I’d love to have you come up and see those facilities...”




Senator King then predicted record visitation numbers for national parks across the country this upcoming season, and urged Ms. Estenoz to work to increase transparency with the distribution of funds through the Great American Outdoors Act.


SENATOR KING: “This is going to be, I think, a record year for the parks. There are two things that you can’t buy, apparently, coming out of the pandemic, an RV and a bicycle – that tells you that people want to get outdoors. One of the things that we’ve been frustrated with after the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is a lack of transparency in the Administration, and I know you talked with the Chairman, but I think it’s incredibly important to share with the committee and Congress how you are approaching the distribution of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funds and the Restore Our Parks Act – what are the criteria and what are the results. It was a huge accomplishment to get that bill through, and it would be very advantageous to the administration to be as clear as possible with us as to how you intend to approach the administration and distribution of those funds.”


ESTENOZ: “Thank you, Senator, and if you noticed me grinning when you invited me to Maine, and I’m sure my husband behind me was too. We spent a wonderful family vacation in Acadia several years ago, and we would love the opportunity to return. It is a magnificent state. You are making an excellent point, and if I am confirmed, I will be absolutely committed to transparency in the implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act. The selection of projects under the LWCF, the Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have developed very robust criteria for project selection, and those both reflect mission of the agency…”


In addition to Ms. Estenoz, today’s hearing considered the nominations of Robert Anderson to be Solicitor of the Department of the Interior; and Tanya Trujillo to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior (Water and Science).


A member of the Energy and Natural Resources and Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Senator King is among the Senate’s loudest voices advocating for public lands and encouraging outdoor recreation. He was 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 Senator 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. 

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