"This legislation comes at a critical time for our nation and our national parks, as many parks across the country prepare for one of the busiest summer seasons while also trying to keep roadways, bridges and transit systems accessible and operational." - Emily Douce, NPCA's Director of Operations and Park Funding
Washington, DC – Today, the United States House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act that includes nearly $2 billion in much needed dedicated funding to repair national park roads, bridges and transportation systems. The INVEST in America Act would authorize federal highway, transit and rail programs, with bold efforts to reduce harmful air pollution and make our nation’s transportation infrastructure stronger and more resilient to climate change. Additionally, this bill would invest in common-sense solutions to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, protecting motorists and ensuring long-term health of national park wildlife.
The National Park System is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of federal infrastructure it manages, including 10,000 miles of publicly accessible roads and 1,440 bridges. Unfortunately, nearly 40 percent of park roads are in poor condition and in need of repair, all while many parks are also dealing with record visitation. By addressing our parks’ transportation needs, we can ensure that visitors have the park experiences they expect and deserve.
The committee also passed the bipartisan Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021, which provides much needed investments in water infrastructure that would benefit parks across the country. Parks are only as healthy as the waters that flow in, around, and through them. They provide safe recreation while protecting critical wildlife habitat. However, our nation’s water infrastructure systems have fallen into significant disrepair, failing to protect public health and aquatic park ecosystems. This legislation would invest more than $50 billion over five years for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure that would support our parks and communities, yielding cleaner water and more climate resilient infrastructure.
America’s national parks and surrounding communities are a vital part of our nation’s economy and have aided in our economic growth, generating more than $42 billion every year. National parks are economic engines that are worthy of the robust infrastructure investment the INVEST in America Act and the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act would provide. In addition to addressing the highest priority infrastructure needs at national park sites across the country, these bills would also generate tens of thousands of infrastructure-related jobs from construction workers to technicians to engineers.
Key park provisions included in the INVEST in America Act:
- Guarantees an increase in annual funding to the Park Service – an additional $580 million over the span of the five-year bill – through the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which provides funds to improve roads, bridges, transit and other transportation infrastructure in parks.
- Dedicates $200 million a year for federal land management agencies to address large repair projects, such as reconstruction of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone and repair of the Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park.
- Increases the Federal Lands Access Program by $350 million over five years, which provides funding to states and other local entities to provide access for park visitors to national parks and other federal lands.
- Provides significant investments to reduce carbon pollution and advance mitigation and resiliency measures in our parks to combat the changing climate.
- Establishes a $400 million wildlife crossing grant program to support efforts by federal agencies, tribes and states to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, protect motorists and improve habitat connectivity.
- Funds updated research into the causes and consequences of wildlife-vehicle collisions including expanded studies and reports to Congress.
Key park provisions included in the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act:
- Reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, quadrupling current funding levels to $8 billion annually, which would begin to address aging and failing wastewater and stormwater infrastructure nationwide that contributes to poor water quality threatening water resources in downstream national parks.
- Increases funding for the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse grant program, investing $2 billion over five years to reduce pollution threatening park waters at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, St. Croix National Scenic River and other parks around the country.
- Boosts State Management Assistance grants, providing $2.5 billion over five years to support state agencies in their implementation of Clean Water Act protections essential to public health, recreation and the protection of park water resources.
Statement by Emily Douce, Director of Operations and Park Funding for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):
“This legislation comes at a critical time for our nation and our national parks, as many parks across the country prepare for one of the busiest summer seasons while also trying to keep roadways, bridges and transit systems accessible and operational. We commend Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) for leading the effort to address our nation’s transportation and water infrastructure needs, including the costly backlog of projects in our parks. Increased funding is critical to meeting the increased demand our parks are facing and providing inspirational visitor experiences now, and for years to come.
“Roadways, transportation and clean water systems are essential to national parks and park communities. But these systems are in bad shape from crumbling roads on the Blue Ridge Parkway, to deteriorating bridges at Great Smoky Mountains to flood damaged roads at Harpers Ferry. And park waters are in jeopardy as nearly two-thirds of national parks that protect water resources suffer from water quality impairments.
“Congress made great strides last year, passing legislation that is fixing our parks’ decaying buildings and outdated water systems and supporting the operation of parks. But there is more work to be done as parks across the country continue to operate on shoestring budgets while dealing with decreased staffing, record visitation and intensifying threats from climate change. Now, Congress must work together to pass final legislation that prioritizes the future of our parks and surrounding communities.”
About The 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 nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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