Bipartisan-Supported Centennial Bill Would Help Address National Park Needs and Engage Youth
WASHINGTON – Below is a statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association, following the House of Representative’s passage today of the National Park Service Centennial Act (H.R 4680).
Sponsored by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the bill will help address some of the parks’ critical repair needs and enhance visitor programs. It would expand public-private partnerships in national parks, establish and fund a national parks endowment, and provide additional opportunities for young people and volunteers to serve in and learn from our parks.
This bill includes provisions proposed to Congress by the Obama Administration and supported by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
“Today’s passage of the National Park Service Centennial Act is a victory for our national parks. Our national parks protect our most treasured places, but face poor funding that jeopardizes their long-term future. This means park superintendents can’t afford to offer popular visitor programs, maintain trails, repair historical buildings, or update decades-old visitor centers. The bill – passed with broad, bipartisan support – will help by advancing smart, effective initiatives that will help fund maintenance needs in our parks and enhance visitors’ experiences in them.
“One initiative is the Centennial Challenge Fund, a proven public-private partnership that uses federal funding to leverage private dollars for our national parks. Presidents from both political parties have seen the value of this approach as part of a broader strategy for protecting our parks. The results speak for themselves with private dollars doubling the federal dollars. Now, it’s time for Congress to make this program part of our national parks’ future by providing a long-term funding source.
“As the Park Service concludes its centennial year, there has never been a better time for Congress to help restore America’s national treasures. It’s now up to the Senate to enact the bill before this Congressional session comes to an end.”
The National Park Service Centennial Act (H.R. 4680) would help address some of the $12 billion in needed repairs to park infrastructure, such as unmaintained trails and deteriorating buildings and structures that help tell America’s story but are in danger of falling apart. These delayed repairs hamper visitor access and enjoyment just when parks are experiencing record-breaking attendance as they celebrate their centennial year. The legislation would also help fund educational programs to better connect younger Americans to parks.
Funding for these national park needs would come in part from formally establishing and providing dedicated funding for the Centennial Challenge, a proven and successful public-private partnership that leverages federal funds with private dollars for visitor-oriented projects in our national parks. Another important funding component is the establishment of an endowment to provide a path toward the long-term fiscal health of our national parks.
There is a successful track record for leveraging private dollars when Congress commits to a federal match. Over the last two years, a federal investment of $25 million from appropriated dollars cultivated twice that amount in private donations. This money was used for such projects as improving visitor walkways in Yellowstone and making critical repairs to the Old State House in Boston.
Other policy provisions provide clear authority to the National Park Service for better interpretation and education programs, offer additional opportunities for young people and veterans by expanding the Public Land Corps, and allow for extra funding support for volunteer programs.
Examples of past projects Centennial Challenge funding:
Yosemite National Park (California): Improved hydrology related to roads and trails to benefit the giant sequoias; reconfigured the Mariposa Grove Road near the south entrance to enhance safety and traffic flow; added over 20 new accessible parking spaces; provided two miles of new pedestrian trails; and restored nearly four acres of giant sequoias and wetland habitat. Total cost: $5.1 million; partner (The Yosemite Conservancy) match: 80%.
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho): Helped restore and enhance the original and only year-round entrance to the world’s first national park by improving walkways, reducing traffic congestion and updating signage. Total cost: $2 million; partner (Yellowstone Park Foundation) match: 75%.
Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts): Completed critically-needed restoration of wooden cupola section of the Old State House, replaced outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, and provided handicap accessibility to the building. Total cost: $1.4 million; partner (Bostonian Society) match: 50%.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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Eric BontragerFormer Senior Manager, Communications