March 20, 2018

Kilmer’s National Park Legacy Act, Other Park Maintenance Plans Clear Important Hurdle

Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on the National Park Service Legacy Act and other plans to reduce maintenance backlogs in the National Park System.

“National parks across the country desperately need repairs. Fixing them creates jobs and boosts economies around the parks,” Rep. Derek Kilmer said. “I support nature hikes, not entry fee hikes. The National Park Service Legacy Act will fix our national parks and put people to work without sticking visitors with the bill.”

Marcia Argust, the Director of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks Campaign, testified before the committee today.

“Deferred maintenance within our National Park System is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. It will require a bipartisan approach and collaboration.” Argust said in her written testimony. She said her group endorsed The National Park Service Legacy Act “without reservation.”

Today, she brought the committee a list of more than 3,000 organizations across the nation that support directing more resources to fixing up the nation’s parks. The diversity of the groups shows the vital role national parks paly in the economy. It included: county and local officials, businesses, veterans, representatives of the hotel and restaurant industries, conservation groups, labor unions, the recreation industry, infrastructure groups and tourism societies.

The National Park Service Legacy Act would generate dedicated funding for park maintenance over the next 50 years. The amount of funds would be scaled in the following way:

  • $50 million a year in fiscal years 2018-20.
  • $150 million a year in fiscal 2021-23.
  • $250 million a year in fiscal 2024-26.
  • $500 million a year in fiscal 2027-47.

The act would address the backlog by distributing revenue the government receives from oil and gas royalties back into a restoration fund. It has been endorsed by the National Parks Conservation Association, Pew Charitable Trusts, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Late last year, the Department of the Interior proposed a plan to almost triple the fee for visitors to enter the national parks from $25 per car to $70 in order to pay for maintenance. Kilmer opposes the fee hike. He led events in Washington state to encourage his constituents to weigh in against the proposal during the public comment period. According to The Seattle Times, raising park fees would do little to reduce the maintenance backlog. Rather than the long-term solution the bipartisan National Park Service Legacy Act offers, a fee hike would only generate about 1 percent of the total funds needed to address the maintenance backlog throughout the National Park System.

According to the National Park Service, in 2016 the 3,390,221 people who visited Olympic National Park spent $286,786,300 in communities near the park. That spending supported 3,842 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $398,689,900.

The same study found that for every $1 dollar invested in the National Park Service, an estimated $10 are returned to the nation’s economy. And, it’s estimated that the 331 million visitors to the nation’s national parks spend $18.4 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park.