Advocacy

Issue Brief: Restore Our National Parks Act

THE ISSUE

ASLA supports legislation that addresses the deferred maintenance backlog of national parks and other public lands across the country.

Background

Due to an ever-increasing volume of visitors and a lack of adequate funding, the National Park Service (NPS) is unable to keep up with its maintenance needs. As a result, many projects have been deferred or even cancelled. These projects include the repair and/or replacement of aging visitor centers, water infrastructure, historic buildings, and docks in addition to transportation-related projects such as roads, bridges, tunnels, trails, scenic overlooks, and parking lots. This problem is an enormous challenge for park superintendents, who struggle to utilize insufficient resources to care for the parks and safety of visitors. By 2018, it was estimated that the deferred maintenance needs had grown to nearly $12 billion. NPS is not alone in its deferred maintenance backlog, as multiple agencies within the Department of the Interior lacking funding to keep up with maintenance on public lands.

Bill Summary

To address the maintenance backlog of NPS and other public lands, H.R. 1225, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act and S. 500, the Restore Our Parks Act were introduced in the House and Senate respectively. These bills create a “Legacy Restoration Fund” to pay for deferred maintenance projects. This fund would be allocated 50 percent of oil and gas royalties not already obligated to other funds or projects. The funding, capped at $1.3 billion per year, would be available yearly without further appropriations from Congress, and it would not divert any dollars away from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Acknowledging that projects cannot be rushed, both bills ensure there is no requirement that the funds be used in a specific fiscal year, while also allowing unused amounts to be placed in interest-baring accounts for future projects.

While similar, the House and Senate versions of the bill are not entirely identical. One of the major differences is the scope of agency access to the Legacy Restoration Fund. The House bill would fund projects by NPS, as well as other land management agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). Whereas, the Senate bill only allows fund access to NPS. Additionally, the Senate bill requires 65 percent of the funding be used exclusively for non-transportation projects, with the expectation that money from the Highway Trust Fund, which is already earmarked for NPS, would help transportation projects reach parity. The House version splits the funds fifty-fifty between transportation and non-transportation projects.


Recent Action

On June 26, 2019, the House Committee on Natural Resources reported H.R. 1225 out of committee 36-2.

On February 14, 2019, Senators Rob Portman (OH), Lamar Alexander (TN), Angus King (ME), and Mark Warner (VA) introduced S. 500, the Restore Our Parks Act.


Sponsors

S. 500, Senators Rob Portman (OH), Lamar Alexander (TN), Angus King (ME), and Mark Warner (VA) and cosponsors.

H.R. 1225, Representatives Rob Bishop (UT) and Derek Kilmer (WA) and cosponsors.  

Contact

Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs
governmentaffairs@asla.org

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs
governmentaffairs@asla.org

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