Press Release Mar 28, 2017

Sens. Warner, Portman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address National Park Service Maintenance Backlog

NPS has a $12 billion backlog in deferred and overdue maintenance – half is critical transportation infrastructure

NOTE: This is a reposting of the original release by Senators Warner and Portman. To view the original release, click here.

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the National Park Service Legacy Act, bipartisan legislation which would address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS).

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has deferred maintenance for a year or more on visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. NPS maintains more than 75,000 assets across the country, including campgrounds, natural lands, historic trails, irrigation and electrical systems, as well as thousands of miles of roads. Of these, 41,000 – or more than half – are in need of repairs.

Over the past decade, Congressional financial support for park maintenance has decreased by 40 percent, and the last time Congress directly addressed the infrastructure needs of the park system was in 1956. The Warner-Portman National Park Service Legacy Act establishes a National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating $500 million annually from existing revenues the government receives for oil and natural gas royalties, every year, until 2047.

“More than 100 years after the founding of the National Park Service, our park system remains in a critical state of disrepair. In fact, Virginia ranks 5th in the list of states with the greatest need for maintenance, with a backlog of more than $800 million,” said Sen. Warner. “While we’ve heard much talk here in Washington about infrastructure spending, a great way to begin this work is by helping in the revitalization of our public lands and the repair of critical roads and bridges, an investment which can generate $10 in economic activity for every public dollar invested. Our bipartisan legislation provides this needed investment by helping ensure that these historically diverse assets are preserved for future generations to enjoy. It also makes needed investments in NPS infrastructure, roads and bridges, like the Arlington Memorial Bridge, many of which are badly in need of repair.”

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been keeping America beautiful,“ Sen. Portman said. "But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the right resources. Last year President Obama signed into law my National Park Service Centennial Act, which created two new public-private partnerships that will partially reduce the National Park Service’s $12 billion maintenance backlog. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects, including $75 million of deferred maintenance in Ohio’s eight national park sites. This legislation will set up the National Park Service for a second century of preserving American treasures like Cuyahoga Valley National Park.”

Eighty percent of the funds in the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund will be dedicated for the repair and rehabilitation of key assets, including historic structures, visitor facilities, water utility systems, disability access, health and safety, and recreation. Twenty percent of funds will be allocated to roads, bridges, and other transportation-related projects. Amounts from the fund will not be used for land acquisition or used in lieu of funding made available for recurring facility operations and maintenance needs of the Park Service. The bill will also encourage public-private partnerships to help reduce overall deferred maintenance costs by allowing the Secretary of the Interior and Director of the Park Service to accept qualified private donations.

“Thanks to Senators Warner and Portman, we have a bill to address desperately needed repair projects in national parks from Yellowstone to Shenandoah to Cuyahoga Valley. The $12 billion maintenance backlog is an ever-growing challenge for our national parks, which welcomed a record-breaking 331 million visitors last year. This proposal will put our national parks on the right track. By investing in our national parks, we will not only start to tackle this backlog, but we will make our parks more resilient and prepared to continue welcoming visitors eager to explore our nation’s most important natural and historic places. Last year, the National Park Service celebrated its centennial. We can think of no better way for Congress to help our parks as they begin their second century than to approve this legislation,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, National Parks Conservation Association.

“National parks continue to be our common ground. Senators Warner and Portman demonstrated leadership and foresight today by introducing legislation to ensure that our nation’s most significant historical and natural resources will be protected and that communities dependent on park tourism will continue to flourish,” said Marcia Argust, Director of Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks project.

“The provisions of this bill acknowledge that America’s national parks are our inheritance and our legacy. We must invest in them at a level that reflects their true value in terms of biodiversity, historical preservation, recreational opportunities and their contributions to the American economy,” said Susan Sherman, President, Shenandoah National Park Trust.

"Passing this bill is not only the right thing to do but a thing that must be done if we as Americans want to continue the National Park legacy. With $12 billion in backlogged maintenance needs, our national parks need us to act now,” said Carolyn Ward, Chief Executive Officer, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

"I appreciate seeing the federal government fulfill its role as the owner of our national parks through the actions in this bill. It is also helpful to make it easier for the American public to support important projects in their national parks,” said Deb Yandala, Chief Executive Officer, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

There are 34 NPS operated parks, trails and battlefields and historic sites in Virginia. In 2015, the latest year in which data is available, public lands maintained by NPS in Virginia enjoyed over 23,00,000 recreational visits, creating over 15,000 jobs. That same year, NPS was forced to defer $163 million in non-transportation maintenance projects at its sites in Virginia, including Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Assateague Island, Booker T. Washington National Monument, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Fort Monroe National Monument, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Petersburg National Battlefield, Richmond National Battlefield Park, Shenandoah National Park, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

Last year, legislation introduced by Sen. Warner to expand the Petersburg National Battlefield became law after it was included in the annual defense authorization bill. Sen. Warner has also led the effort to fund the rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge, a NPS asset located between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va., with more than 68,000 vehicles crossings every day. NPS has said that a total of $250 million is needed in order to bring Memorial Bridge into a state of good repair.

For more information on this legislation, click here. Full text of the bill can be found here.