Policy Update Jun 30, 2020

Position on H.R. 2, Moving Forward Act

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the House of Representatives prior to an anticipated vote. 

NPCA urges members to support H.R. 2, Moving Forward Act, when it comes to a vote this week in the House of Representatives.

For more than a century, our national parks have remained America’s favorite places, important pieces of our natural and cultural heritage protected for future generations to explore and enjoy. But as record crowds enjoy our national parks, they find the facilities and infrastructure in and around parks have become worn and inadequate to meet the demand. Also, roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure were not built to withstand the severe weather impacts of climate change in and outside our national parks.

The National Park System is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of federal infrastructure it manages. In total, the agency is responsible for protecting and managing over 75,000 assets including roads and bridges, trails, historic buildings, and wastewater and electrical systems. Investments from the Highway Trust Fund finance the upkeep and repair of the 10,000 miles of publicly accessible roads and 1,440 bridges in our national parks.

The communities around and near parks also face staggering infrastructure needs. Roads that bring visitors to parks and water systems that provide drinking water to people in parks and park communities need serious repair or replacement.

In addition, our national parks and the wildlife within depend on infrastructure investments throughout the country that reduce impacts to our nation’s air and water quality, address climate change impacts, invest in resilient and natural solutions, and implement common-sense solutions to protecting wildlife and motorists alike.

NPCA urges the House to pass the Moving Forward Act, and offers specific positions for the following provisions in the bill:

Climate Forward Infrastructure

Climate change is the greatest threat the national parks have ever faced. Nearly everything we know and love about the parks — their plants and animals, rivers and lakes, glaciers, beaches, historic structures, and more — is already under stress from these changes. The vision presented in the Moving Forward Act to consider climate change and resilience among other environmental protections charts a new course for infrastructure investments and surface transportation specifically (Sec. 1103), one that will help protect our national parks. Among the many provisions in the bill that support climate forward changes for our nation’s infrastructure, NPCA strongly supports the commitment to climate research (Sec. 1621 and Sec. 5102), efforts to establish infrastructure longevity by building climate resilience through natural infrastructure and other carbon-reducing developments (Sec. 1202), and proposed changes to our nation’s energy production and consumption.

Clean Energy

Our nation’s long-term consumption of fossil fuels has accelerated climate impacts. It’s critical to protecting our public health, and natural and cultural resources across the nation, including our national parks, to consider emissions mitigation. Fortunately, the Moving Forward Act provides progressive action toward cleaner energy sources, increased efficiency and more sustainable use (Division G, Title III, Chapter 2).

In addition, H.R. 2 supports supplemental funding to ensure costs for improved natural gas distribution (Sec. 33121) do not place an undue burden on low-income communities. Improved distribution would support reduced methane emissions—which, when released into the atmosphere, speeds climate change and contributes to unhealthy smog increasingly fouling the air in many western national parks.

To successfully modernize our infrastructure and mitigate climate impacts, NPCA recognizes these changes must be accompanied by a just transition to a cleaner energy future. The Moving Forward Act recognizes this through renewable grant programs (Sec. 33131), greater recognition of the energy needs of tribal communities (Sec. 33162), ensuring energy access and investments (See portions of Division M, Title IV, Subtitle A), and supporting environmental justice programming (Sec. 90451). Implementation of the bill’s green energy provisions should include full compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and discourage the processing of biomass or municipal waste.

Energy Development

National parks are increasingly threatened by oil and gas development as a result of this administration’s acceleration of drilling within park landscapes, its aggressive rollback of environmental safeguards and a lack of thoughtful stakeholder engagement in planning processes.

NPCA applauds and encourages further development of a federal oil & gas orphan well remediation program (Sec 84101) to include a more encompassing funding allocation that better accounts for “at risk” and undocumented orphan wells on federal and tribal land. We support the inclusion of federal bonding reform provisions that ensure communities are not left footing the bill for abandoned wells and help build us toward a foundation away from blanket bonding.

NPCA opposes Subtitle F - Community Reclamation Partnerships (Sec. 84601—84604) that encourages putting the onus of abandoned coal mine sites clean up on third party groups rather than hold polluters accountable.

National Park Transportation Infrastructure Investments

Largely due to inadequate funding, the National Park Service currently suffers from a $11.9 billion backlog in overdue repairs, more than half of which is needed for roads and bridges. We strongly support funding increases to the National Park Service in the Moving Forward Act through the Federal Lands Transportation Program (Sec. 1504) and Federal Lands and Tribal Major Projects Program (Sec. 1505) to ensure millions of visitors can continue to experience and enjoy our national parks.

The investments made in the Federal Lands Transportation Program help the National Park Service repair and maintain transportation assets throughout the country such as Sunrise Road in Olympic National Park or Brandywine Falls Road and bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, both currently needing repair.

The Federal Lands and Tribal Major Projects Program helps address exceptionally large repair projects in our parks, such as the reconstruction of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone. The increased investment will help address more projects throughout the system. We greatly appreciate the dedicated funding which will provide the agencies the ability to plan projects years in advance.

Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction

Wildlife-vehicle collisions constitute a major threat to wildlife, human safety and habitat connectivity between national parks and adjacent lands. Across the U.S., wildlife-vehicle collisions result in a significant number of human injuries and fatalities, costing Americans more than $8 billion annually.

The Moving Forward Act invests in on-the-ground research and solutions that will help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in and near parks and communities across the country. This includes $300 million to implement projects and strategies that reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality and restore or maintain habitat connectivity (Sec. 1620), an updated study examining methods to reduce collisions between motorists and wildlife (Sec. 5107 (a)), a workforce development and training program (Sec. 5107 (d)), and expanded eligibility for projects addressing wildlife-vehicle collisions under other transportation funding streams (Sec. 1201, Sec. 1205, Sec. 1207, Sec 1307).

Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act

NPCA supports the inclusion of this legislation which will ensure wildlife can continue to migrate, move and thrive in the face of increasing threats to their populations. National parks, and the larger ecosystems on which they depend, are home to some of America’s most iconic plant, fish and wildlife species. From pronghorn antelope in Grand Teton to Florida panthers in the Everglades, national parks provide core habitat for a variety of migratory animals. But the same species that depend on parks require connectivity to habitat beyond park boundaries to thrive. Whether it is migrating to seasonal habitats or adapting to climate change, plants and animals need the ability to move across the landscape to maintain healthy populations.

This legislation gives federal land managers like the National Park Service the authority to designate National Wildlife Corridors to support connectivity, resilience and adaptability of native fish, wildlife and plants on federal public lands. This is complemented by a grant program for states, tribes and private landowners that would provide additional resources and opportunities for connectivity priorities identified at the local level. Facilitating improved on-the-ground collaboration to encourage habitat connectivity efforts across the country may be the strongest tool for protecting park wildlife for the long term. This bill will provide the framework to do this work while respecting the priorities, capacity and needs of land managers at all levels. (Secs. 83201-83402)

Wastewater and Drinking Water Infrastructure Investments

Clean water is essential to national parks and park communities. The Moving Forward Act invests in repairing or replacing wastewater and drinking water infrastructure to ensure park visitors have safe drinking water regardless of whether they are in a park visitor center or staying at a nearby hotel.

Title II, Subtitle A includes important provisions that will improve our nation’s water infrastructure. The bill increases the funding available for repairing or replacing old wastewater and drinking water infrastructure (Secs. 22113 and 33103). It also tries to make funds more affordable for communities that need them most by designating a minimum amount of funds that should be used for grants and other additional subsidization rather than loans (Sec. 22110). It also extends grant funding to communities that are trying to end sewer overflows or reuse their stormwater, problems affecting Cuyahoga Valley National Park, St. Croix National Scenic River and other parks around the country (Sec. 22106). It also supports alternative water source projects like those that reclaim stormwater (Sec. 22105). Among other provisions, the bill also dedicates funding towards projects that use natural or nature-based features to address stormwater runoff, which also pollutes park waters (Sec. 22109). We also appreciate the bill’s new grant program that helps utilities address the treatment needed for PFAS (Sec. 33101).

Ecosystem Restoration Programs

The health of our national parks depends on the health of the lands and waters that surround them. NPCA supports sections in the Moving Forward Act that reauthorize and extend support for popular programs designed to restore and protect large aquatic ecosystems, including the Chesapeake Bay (Sec. 22301), Puget Sound (Sec. 22303), the Great Lakes (Sec. 22304) and Long Island Sound (Sec. 22307). We also are pleased to see that the bill includes support for the National Estuary Program (Sec. 22305) and increases funding for Sec. 319 grants, which focus on preventing agricultural and stormwater runoff (Sec. 22201).

Coastal and Drought Resiliency

Building resilient ecosystems around parks to help them adapt to climate change is also crucial as parks and nearby communities face longer droughts, more extreme rains and flooding, stronger storms, and intense fires. The Moving Forward Act includes important provisions that improve park health. The coastal resiliency fund, which the bill establishes at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, supports coastal restoration projects that restore habitat for fish and wildlife or assist in climate adaptation (Sec. 83101). The living shoreline grants, especially in disaster areas, will also help protect park communities and coastal parks by creating more sand dunes, wetlands, barrier islands and coastal forests that increase resilient coastal areas in the face of sea level rise or frequent storms (Sec. 83102).

Some parts of the county—especially in the West—are experiencing the opposite of many coastal areas, which have too much water. The Colorado River system and other areas out west face extreme drought. Nine national parks get water from the Colorado River system, including popular parks like Rocky Mountain National Park, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Grand Canyon National Park. H.R. 2 includes Sections 81201-81252 (the FUTURE Drought Resiliency Subtitle) and Sections 81301-81335, which mirrors the Western Water Security Act (H.R. 4891/S. 2718). NPCA supports these provisions because they set out a balanced approach to providing 21st century western water infrastructure, water supply security, water recycling and reuse, and ecological resiliency.

Outdoors for All Act

NPCA supports the inclusion of this legislation which would provide dedicated funding to the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) at the National Park Service. The ORLP is a nationally competitive matching grant program for communities to acquire land and water for parks or recreation purposes or develop new or renovate existing outdoor recreation facilities. Priority is given to urban areas that engage and empower underserved communities.

Since OLRP started six years ago, nearly $30 million in federal grants have been matched 1:1 by private and non-federal entities to provide benefits to 40 communities in 28 states. For example, projects recently completed include the acquisition and construction of a railroad trail connecting low and moderate-income communities with the riverfront and downtown business district in Fort Smith City, Arkansas, and the development of a new recreation park on 13 acres of donated land in Hall County, Georgia. The Outdoors for All Act would ensure that this program continues to support acquisition and renovation projects throughout the country to connect people of all ages and demographics with the outdoors (Secs. 82201-82206).

Parks, Forests and Public Lands

Through H.R. 2, the Presidio of San Francisco, a National Historic Landmark that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and managed by the Presidio Trust, will receive necessary updates to the site’s founding legislation to ensure site maintenance, preservation and other property needs. (Sec. 82301).

While the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails program does not occur within national parks, the health of adjacent lands is critical to park landscapes. As such, the Moving Forward Act ensures the Legacy Roads and Trails program will support building more resilient public lands through restoration and remediation activities such as decommissioning roads to reduce fragmentation of habitat (Sec. 82401).

Select Positions on Offered Amendments:

Tlaib, Barragán, Ocasio-Cortez, Brownley 13 (En Bloc Part B): NPCA supports this amendment that would appropriately focus additional resources and research to address how communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change and environmental or public health impacts may be affected by federal infrastructure projects. The amendment provides an appropriately broad definition for exposed communities that are more likely to be intensely hit by climate, environment and public health harms. In order to justly address climate in our national parks we must address the needs of communities; in many cases, ensuring climate forward infrastructure will ultimately support both.

Finkenauer 236 (En Bloc Part B): NPCA supports this amendment would add additional years and funding to improve transportation infrastructure in rural communities, which may include many near national parks. Eligible projects include important efforts to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve habitat connectivity and improve safety for motorists.

Blunt Rochester 71 (En Bloc Part D): NPCA supports this amendment to add additional funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for grant awards aimed at greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions at ports and port facilities. Recognizing that nearly every national park is affected by air pollution and climate change in adverse ways, and that air pollution makes it harder to breathe and impairs visibility, choking off incredible views in our national parks, it is critical we create additional incentive to reduce GHG emissions via all goods transport. While this amendment in its entirety is beyond NPCA’s scope and expertise, we do want to note our support for increased transportation efficiencies that contribute to climate mitigation and improved public health within our national parks, their park-adjacent communities and beyond.

Sarbanes, Scott, Wittman, Harris 54 (En Bloc Part E): NPCA supports this amendment, which would reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Program. This program provides matching grants throughout the watershed to promote the history of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to visitors. These sites connect visitors to parks, wildlife refuges, museums, sailing ships, historic communities and trails while generating important economic revenue for the gateway community. Gateway locations among the 170 sites funded by the program include Fort McHenry National Monument, Piscataway Park and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway. Each Gateway site shares the stories of the Chesapeake Bay, allowing visitors to hike, paddle and experience a different aspect of the 64,000 square mile Bay watershed.

Scott, Sarbanes, Wittman 205 (En Bloc Part E): NPCA supports this amendment because it authorizes, for the first time, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to have a Chesapeake Bay watershed program. The focus of the legislation is to provide a grant program for habitat restoration for fish and wildlife throughout the 64,000 square mile Bay watershed in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The authorized amount is $15 million annually, and all grants require a 50% match. The habitat restoration resulting from this grant program will improve water quality and wildlife corridor connectivity while benefiting important aquatic species in our coastal parks including Assateague Island National Seashore and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Brownley 154 (En Bloc Part F): NPCA supports this amendment to require that medium- and heavy-duty vehicles purchased by the federal government are zero-emissions vehicles. With heavy-duty trucks being one of the largest contributors to air and climate pollution in places like California and elsewhere, and up to 77 million park visitor-days since 1990 occurring on days when ozone concentrations exceeded the standard that the National Park Service, based on EPA’s analysis, classifies as “significant concern,” this amendment would help support cleaner air in both communities and our parks, like Sequoia and Joshua Tree National Parks.

Tlaib, Kildee, Slotkin, Cicilline, Moore 95 (En Bloc Part H): NPCA supports this amendment, which would authorize $4.5 billion per year for 5 years to start removing the 6 to 10 million lead service lines that contaminate tap water. No amount of lead in drinking water is safe for families, yet too many households still drink water contaminated from lead pipes and fixtures. Not only does the amendment prioritize action in replacing lead pipes, it also targets those funds to ensure that those communities that experience disproportionate health effects of lead pipes – often black, indigenous and other communities of color and low-income cities – are prioritized to receive these funds.

Stauber 207 (En Bloc Part G): NPCA opposes this amendment because we do not support exempting projects from requiring a Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 permit even if would-be permittees have supposedly equivalent state dredge/fill permits. Eliminating this important oversight undermines Endangered Species Act consultations with other agencies or evaluations under the National Environmental Policy Act, which protects ecosystems and allows communities to have a say in protecting their air and water. It also prevents EPA from exercising important oversight authority through section 404(c ). Additionally, the CWA already allows states to assume responsibility for issuing 404 dredge or fill permits if state programs meet certain requirements. If states want that responsibility, a process already exists without Congress taking action now.

McKinley, Cheney, Gianforte 286 (En Bloc Part G): NPCA opposes this amendment, which weakens Clean Water Act protections for park waterways. The CWA gives the states a key role in implementing water quality standards for direct discharges and non-point source pollution. Under section 401 of the CWA, states and tribal authorities enjoy the ability to ensure federal permits and licenses comply with state water quality standards and state law by requiring that permit applicants obtain state or tribal certification that their projects have met those conditions that would ensure the project’s compliance with applicable federal, state, and tribal law. This amendment would undermine the ability of states and tribal authorities to ensure that proposed projects comply with state and tribal water quality standards risking water quality in and near parks.