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November 19, 2019

Senate Committee Passes King’s “Restore Our Parks Act” to Address National Park Service Maintenance Backlog

Committee also approves bill cosponsored by King, Collins to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, cast his vote along with many of his Committee colleagues on both sides of the aisle in support of the Restore Our Parks Act as it passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senator King introduced the bill earlier this year with U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.); it would address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS) via revenues from natural resource development projects on federal lands. The bill has been praised by key stakeholders, such as the National Park Foundation and Friends of Acadia. In addition to the Restore Our Parks Act, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed legislation to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was permanently reauthorized as part of the public lands package in early March.

“Today’s committee vote represents an important, bipartisan step towards establishing lasting protections for our National Parks, and preserving these treasures for our children and grandchildren,” said Senator King. “From Acadia to Zion, the National Park System captures America’s diverse natural beauty and is a proud reminder of our country’s dedication to preserving public land for all its citizens. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.’ We have a collective responsibility to maintain this spirit of the wilderness in our National Parks – and this starts with the $12 billion maintenance backlog. Stewardship of our public lands is not a partisan issue, which is why I’m pleased that the Restore Our Parks Act passed our Committee with strong bipartisan support.”

“The two bipartisan bills advanced by the Committee today will help to ensure both current and future generations can enjoy the pristine beauty of our natural resources in Maine and across the county,” said Senator Collins. “By building on the accomplishment of permanently reauthorizing LWCF earlier this year, this legislation to provide guaranteed funding will preserve our country’s most successful conservation and outdoor recreation program.  In addition, the Restore Our Parks Act will help the National Park Service accommodate the millions of visitors to Acadia and other cherished national parks by providing much-needed funding to repair roads and trails and for other maintenance projects.  I urge our colleagues to join us in this effort to protect our nation’s natural treasures for the benefit of all Americans.” 

“The Restore Our Parks Act represents a significant investment in our national parks, which reflect all that we love and cherish as a nation,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO, National Park Foundation. “As these places face increased visitation and aging infrastructure, this bill will help protect our parks' natural grandeur, expansive history, and rich cultural heritage. The National Park Foundation applauds bill champions Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Angus King, Senator Rob Portman, and Senator Mark Warner for their unwavering support. We commend Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Joe Manchin for holding today's markup and their shared commitment to addressing our parks’ deferred maintenance needs. As the Foundation continues to enhance the national park visitor experience through philanthropic support, we look forward to the legislation’s timely consideration on the Senate floor."

“Deferred maintenance is a huge challenge for our national parks – and the problem grows every day we don’t do something about it,” said David MacDonald, President of Friends of Acadia.  “Acadia National Park, which hosts 3.5 million visits annually, has more than $65 million of delayed repairs to trails, roads, bridges, water systems, and buildings that are critical to the public’s enjoyment of the park.  The Restore Our Parks Act would allow timely investments in parks like Acadia to ensure that they remain national treasures and local economic generators now and in the future.”

The Restore Our Parks Act is supported by a bipartisan group of 44 Senators and the Interior Department, and 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 witnesses at a Subcommittee on National Parks hearing last July and has the support of key Administration officials, including the Interior Secretary. In addition, in September 2018 Senator King joined Acting NPS Director Dan Smith on a tour of Acadia National Park to assess the park’s critical maintenance need; the backlog at Acadia alone is estimated to be approximately $60 million.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act was introduced in April by Senators King, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and a bipartisan group of 12 of their Senate colleagues. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, Senator King is known within Congress as a champion of efforts to preserve, protect, and promote America’s national parks and public lands. In today’s hearing, Senator King lauded the work of LWCF, stating “LWCF, the premiere land conservation program in the country. The fact that after all these years, I think it’s about 60 years, we’re finally getting to the place where the funding, which by the way is from the revenues – it’s not from tax revenues, it’s from the revenues from mineral extraction, and therefore makes so much sense.”

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