Policy Update Jan 20, 2016

National Parks Second Century Action Coalition

The National Parks Second Century Action Coalition is a national coalition dedicated to promoting the protection, restoration, and operation of the National Park System to benefit the health and well-being of current and future generations.

The coalition will take actions that help the National Park Service achieve conservation goals, foster visitor enjoyment, engage youth, promote tourism, preserve cultural heritage, support educational and recreation opportunities, and foster diversity through federal, fee, and philanthropic funding and other measures.

Major Initiatives and Resources

Centennial Challenge

In 2016, the National Park System is celebrating its 100th anniversary, an ideal opportunity to restore and renew America’s treasures for their next hundred years. The coalition is actively working with the Administration and Congress to establish a long-term, public-private matching program to fund centennial initiatives and address maintenance needs and visitor programs in the national parks.

Progress: Congress has invested in a public-private matching program sporadically through the annual budget. Due to champions and supporters in Congress and the advocacy efforts of this coalition, Congress appropriated $10 million, which was matched with nearly $16 million in private donations in 2015. For 2016, Congress increased the federal contribution to $15 million. The coalition continues to advocate for dependable, mandatory funding for the program in time for the Centennial.

Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act

The Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) authorizes several agencies, including the National Park Service, to collect and expend recreation fees on lands they manage. These fees fund projects that directly benefit the visitor experience by repairing and improving facilities at national parks, offering education materials and services, and providing law enforcement. However, the authority for FLREA is scheduled to sunset in September 2017, which will result in agencies no longer having explicit recreation fee authority. The parks would lose approximately $180 million a year. The coalition is actively working with Congress to reauthorize this law before it sunsets.

Progress: Congress is currently reviewing FLREA and beginning the process to reauthorize the law. The coalition will continue to work with Congress on long-term reauthorization of this law.

Transportation Funding

The National Park System’s transportation systems (roads, bridges, tunnels, ferries, transit, etc.) have been in a steady state of decline over the past couple of decades due to chronic underfunding. The current backlog of park transportation projects totals more than $6 billion. Transportation facilities located or operating in national parks are federal facilities. The recent passage of the FAST Act provides a necessary funding increase for park roads, but many more needs remain. The coalition continues to advocate for additional resources to address park road needs and encourage Congress to fund park roads through the newly established Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Program.

Progress: At the end of 2015, Congress passed the FAST Act that authorizes federal highway programs for five years. In large part because of the advocacy efforts of this coalition, the FAST Act ramps up the annual funding guarantee to the National Park Service from $240 million to $300 million by 2021 through the Federal Lands Transportation Program. Overall, the National Park Service will receive an additional $220 million over the span of the bill.

Additionally, the FAST Act authorizes up to $100 million annually for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program designed to address exceptionally large repair projects such as replacement of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park.

Park Funding through Appropriations

Budget cuts and declining funds prior to fiscal year 2016 have led to crumbling facilities and insufficient rangers and other staff to serve visitors and maintain world-class resources. Restored funding by Congress will help parks recover from neglect, better serve American and international visitors and local economies, and leave a lasting legacy for the next hundred years and beyond. The coalition continues to advocate for an increased federal investment in our national parks, particularly to the operations and construction accounts.

Progress: Congress passed an omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016 with a $94 million increase for park operations, a $5 million increase in the Centennial Challenge program, and a $55 million increase in the park construction account, among other increases. The coalition commends Congress for providing these increases and will continue to work with Congress to build on these restored funds to ensure our parks receive the federal investment they deserve.