Policy Update Nov 19, 2019

Position on S. 500, S. 1081 & Amendments

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ahead of a hearing scheduled for November 19, 2019.

Position on Base Bills:

S.500 - Restore Our Parks Act: NPCA strongly urges your support of S. 500, the Restore Our Parks Act. This important bill dedicates five years of funding to address $6.5 billion of the park service’s deferred maintenance backlog that has grown to $12 billion. Roads, bridges, visitor centers, water systems, trails and more are showing their age and have not received the capital investment they need. The bill would provide overdue repairs for the highest priority assets in the backlog, supporting tourism infrastructure and local economies while protecting and preserving our cultural and natural heritage. NPCA supports the technical changes in the joint staff amendment We urge you to oppose any amendments that would weaken the bill. Please see our additional vote recommendations midday today.

S. 1081 – Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act: NPCA urges support for S. 1081, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, which permanently dedicates the fully authorized $900 million annually towards this important program. LWCF has for over 50 years successfully protected our national parks and other federal public lands from incompatible development while supporting recreational opportunities in communities throughout the country. Dedicated funding for this important conservation program would follow through with needed support after Congress’ recent permanent reauthorization of LWCF. We also urge opposition to any amendments seeking to weaken this bill.

Position on Amendments:

NPCA supports the Cleared Joint Staff Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (FLO19766) to the Restore Our Parks Act.

NPCA supports the Manchin First Degree Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (FLO19803) and Manchin First Degree Amendment (FLO19800).

Amendments to the Restore Our Parks Act:

Heinrich 19548: We understand this amendment will be offered and withdrawn. NPCA has not taken a position.

Lee 19796: NPCA is not opposed to the accounting of costs associated with compliance with bedrock environmental laws. However, we oppose this amendment because it is unnecessary and redundant, as standard channels of congressional oversight can ensure that environmental laws are met while repair projects are addressed efficiently.

Lee 19797: We oppose this amendment that mandates another study investigating potential fee modifications. The park service is already pursuing a study on visitor fees and should be allowed the opportunity to focus on that research before Congress provides any further mandates on the subject. Park fees are important supplemental funding but cannot realistically be increased to address deferred maintenance, a problem that ultimately requires the congressional commitment underlying the base bill.

Lee 19A34: We oppose this amendment because the way it is written, it could easily prevent all deferred maintenance projects because all repair projects are undertaken as new projects. If we understand the intent of this amendment correctly, we concur that the bill should not be used to address entirely new construction projects with no deferred maintenance component. We believe the legislation achieves that goal as it is written.

Lee 19A36: We strongly oppose this amendment because it removes half of the bill’s dedicated infrastructure funding. Replacing the bill’s dedicated funding with fee increases imposes arbitrary costs on visitors with no research on the potential for pricing visitors out of their parks. We also have concerns with the amendment’s approach of providing discounts to only those visitors who are able to present state or federal identification.

Barrasso 19777: NPCA strongly opposes this amendment. By striking the bill’s dedicated funding and instead making the fund subject to appropriations, it effectively eviscerates the bill.

Barrasso 19778: NPCA opposes this amendment. Every national park suffers from deferred maintenance, not just the top ten most visited parks. The National Park Service already has a system in place to determine the high priority projects throughout the system in need of repair. This system allows flexibility in considering visitation as just one of numerous factors that dictate project prioritization.

Barrasso 19849 & 19550: NPCA opposes these amendments that remove coal as one of the bill’s energy revenue sources. The bill’s maintenance fund only draws from miscellaneous receipts after prior obligations such as revenue to states are met, so it does not threaten coal revenue to states. Mineral royalties comprise a substantive portion of the miscellaneous receipts funding the bill, so NPCA opposes stripping this or any of the funding sources for this legislation.

Barrasso 19798: NPCA opposes this amendment that would prevent the funding in the bill from being used for maintenance until passage of unknown legislation that would also provide effective funding mechanisms to address the backlog. The Restore Our Parks Act is an effective funding mechanism for the maintenance backlog.

Lee 19807: NPCA is neutral on this amendment that provides a definition for deferred maintenance.

Amendments to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act:

Barrasso 19795: NPCA strongly opposes this amendment. By striking the bill’s dedicated funding and instead making LWCF subject to appropriations, it effectively eviscerates the bill.

Barrasso 19799: NPCA strongly opposes this amendment that prevents any land acquisition funding until the maintenance backlog falls below $1 billion. This amendment creates a false choice by implying that land acquisition competes with addressing deferred maintenance. The amendment would prevent needed funds from addressing development threats in our parks and other public lands.

Barrasso 19802: NPCA opposes this amendment that diverts needed LWCF funds to federal agency conservation and restoration activities. LWCF is intended to prevent incompatible development on federal land and to support public recreation. There is a substantial backlog of land acquisition projects awaiting funding. The conservation activities the amendment would fund are indeed critical and need funding support, which is why committee members should indicate to appropriators the importance of increasing conservation funding for public lands management agencies.

Lee 19785: NPCA strongly opposes this amendment that inappropriately mandates states’ approval of federal land acquisition projects. Land parcels that are protected from damaging development with LWCF funds are federal land holdings that belong to all the American people and as such should be subject only to decisions at the federal level. Federal agencies already engage state and local governments as part of the acquisition process.

Lee 19789: NPCA has concerns with this amendment, that would reduce dedicated LWCF funding to five years. There are many land acquisition projects that await funding because current appropriations are insufficient to meet the need.