Policy Update Sep 29, 2021

NPCA support for H.R. 3684

NPCA sent the following letter to Members of the House of Representatives expressing support for the passage of H.R. 3684, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) supports passage of H.R. 3684, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, particularly provisions that invest in national parks and park gateway communities. If enacted, this bill would provide critical funding to repair park roads, bridges and transit systems throughout the country. The bill also invests in water infrastructure needs, helps reduce carbon pollution, advances mitigation and resiliency measures that help the nation’s infrastructure adapt to our changing climate and addresses the growing conflict between vehicles and wildlife. Coupled with passage of the Build Back Better Act, the combined investments will provide the overdue funding needed to restore park infrastructure, but also mitigate and address climate impacts that threaten park resources.

For more than a century, our national parks have remained America’s favorite places, important pieces of our natural, historical and cultural heritage set aside for future generations to explore and enjoy. But as visitors enjoy our parks, they find the facilities in the parks have become worn and inadequate to meet increasing demand and climate threats. The National Park Service depends on dedicated funding through the Highway Trust Fund to improve park transportation assets to ensure park visitors continue to enjoy our parks and that the park resources are protected.

In particular, NPCA supports funding increases that help address the billions of dollars of transportation maintenance needs, such as paved roads, parking lots, tunnels, bridges, and transit systems that provide access to and through the national parks. In particular, we support the $311 million increase over 5 years for the Federal Lands Transportation Program, $187 million increase over 5 years for the Federal Lands Access Program, and up to $1.7 billion over 5 years for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program. We encourage Congress and the National Park Service to ensure that a portion of these funds support transit infrastructure to reduce emissions in and around our parks and to help reduce congestion. Examples of needs include resurfacing Cumberland Gap National Historical Park’s renowned Wilderness Road, replacing the rapidly deteriorating Denali Park Road in Denali National Park, repairing culverts, rock walls and surfaces along West Mountain Drive and Hot Springs Mountain Drive in Hot Springs National Park and providing additional bike and pedestrian pathways as well as a circulator shuttle service at Pullman National Monument.

In addition, NPCA is pleased to see provisions in this bill that help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and the associated costs to humans and wildlife. Annually, an estimated 1-2 million wildlife-vehicle collisions with large animals result in close to 30,000 human injuries and hundreds of fatalities. In addition to threats to motorist safety, roads are a leading contributor to decreased habitat connectivity for wildlife. Be it a great migration of mule deer seasonally traveling hundreds of miles from Yellowstone or a red fox just moving through Shenandoah, all park wildlife face a common challenge: roads. NPCA appreciates the wildlife-related provisions throughout the bill that will help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, including: $350 million over 5 years for a Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program; provisions for updated research and technical training opportunities; and the inclusion of wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation as a qualified project element in a number of grant and program funding areas.

NPCA is also pleased to see the inclusion of water quality protection and infrastructure provisions in the legislative package. Parks are only as healthy as the waters that flow in, around and through them. Park waters provide safe recreation while protecting critical flora and fauna, supporting a $140 billion water sports and $36 billion recreational fishing economy. However, park waters are in jeopardy as nearly two-thirds of the 356 national park units that protect water resources suffer from water quality impairments. The bill would authorize more than $35 billion in wastewater, stormwater and drinking water infrastructure investments, supplemented with an additional $62 billion in appropriations. Providing significant increases for EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, Tribal wastewater grants, Clean Water State grants, and ensuring investments address critical public health threats and prioritize natural infrastructure and climate resilient solutions. These investments begin to address the water quality impairments threatening the waters our parks and communities depend on.

The bill also provides vital investments for ecosystem restoration and protection projects in parks and surrounding communities, including $1 billion for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, $238 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, $16 million for the South Florida Program, $26 million for the Delaware River Basin Program, and $1.9 billion for Army Corps aquatic ecosystem restoration projects.

NPCA approves of the inclusion of measures to improve the resiliency of roads and bridges to natural disasters and extreme weather events. We also support efforts to expand the incorporation of natural infrastructure in surface transportation design, particularly in our national parks.

Additionally, we are encouraged by the provisions to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the country with an emphasis on underserved and vulnerable communities, and NPCA encourages the siting of some of these charging locations in and around our national parks. National parks are at the forefront of the climate crisis and should be part of the solution to tackling it.

On reclamation, NPCA supports the inclusion of funding toward orphaned well remediation and looks forward to further funding to meet the full need of an established program, with increased minimum bonding rates to ensure polluter accountability. We are also encouraged by the $11.3 billion investment for the Abandoned Mine Land Fund that is deeply needed to reclaim or restore lands scarred by mining, and request that the revenue made through industry fees be increased rather than cut by 20 percent.

While we support passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, NPCA is concerned about the investments being made that continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry over investing in clean, renewable energy. Sustaining the National Park System requires a transition to clean, renewable energy coupled with energy efficiency and reductions in demand side energy use. This bill authorizes $28.8 billion in nuclear, carbon capture and hydrogen over only $410 million in direct authorizations for wind, solar, geothermal and tidal. NPCA expects to see more significant investments in reconciliation that accounts for this 70-1 investment imbalance.

We are also troubled that there are numerous problematic provisions in this bill that seek to “streamline” or “modernize” NEPA and the federal environmental review process. NEPA is a critical conservation law that has made informed decision-making with meaningful public engagement a core component of every major federal action. From the cobbled carriage roads in Acadia National Park to the sweeping deserts of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, NEPA has protected some of our nations’ most treasured natural and cultural resources. We hope additional resources are provided in the Build Back Better Act to ensure that the health of our environment and communities are consistently prioritized.

NPCA is also concerned about investments in train systems propelled by electromagnetic guideways, often referred to as Maglev, that could impact our public lands. While NPCA supports investment in expanding innovative rail projects, a current proposed Maglev project from Baltimore to Washington would destroy forests, wetlands, and a national park, all while drastically increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

In summary, NPCA supports passage of H.R. 3684, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, particularly provisions that invest in national parks and surrounding communities while also providing solutions to modernizing infrastructure to address our changing climate. We also support quick passage of the Build Back Better Act with bold investments to mitigate and prepare for climate impacts.