Alexander: Senate Committee Approves Increased Funding for Maintenance Backlog at National Parks, Including Smokies

Posted on June 14, 2018

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2018 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today called Senate committee approval of a bill providing increased funding for the maintenance backlog at national parks, including the Smokies, “a promising step,” as he works to pass legislation that could wipe out the backlog in a decade.

“This is the first bipartisan Interior and Environment appropriations bill since 2009, and it includes increased funding for the maintenance backlog. In fiscal year 2018, the $150 million increase in National Park Service [NPS] construction was the largest annual percentage increase ever, and this bill provides even more than that,” Alexander said. “This funding for the maintenance backlog in our national parks will help restore campgrounds, trails and roads in our national parks. This funding is a promising step in addressing park maintenance backlog– the next step is to pass our bipartisan legislation to help restore and rebuild our national parks by helping pay for the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.”

Earlier this year, Alexander, at the request of President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, introduced bipartisan legislation with a group of 8 senators to help address the $11.6 billion national park maintenance backlog, including the $215 million backlog of projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The bill – the National Park Restoration Act – will use revenues from energy production on federal lands to provide mandatory funding for the maintenance backlog at our national parks. Alexander has said with the president’s support and the support in the House and Senate, he is hopeful the legislation will become law this year. 

Alexander continued: “This bill also provides $425 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will fund five projects in Tennessee – – three National Park Service projects in Tennessee national parks; one U.S. Forest Service project in the Cherokee National Forest; and one Forest Legacy project, the Skinner Mountain Forest. The LWCF has played a large role in protecting Tennessee’s outdoors for the over 50 years – providing more than $200 million for conservation and outdoor recreation efforts in our state.”

The Fiscal Year 2019 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Act provides:

  • $13.1 billion for the Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • $425 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will fund five projects in Tennessee – three National Park Service projects in Tennessee national parks; one U.S. Forest Service project in the Cherokee National Forest; and one Forest Legacy project, the Skinner Mountain Forest. 
  • $3.2 billion for the National Park Service, including funding for operations at Tennessee’s national parks, which include the country’s most visited national park – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – and one of the country’s newest national parks – the Manhattan Project National Historic Park.
  • $825 million for NPS facilities operation and maintenance and $364 million for NPS construction.
  • $6.29 billion for the U.S. Forest Service, which includes the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee.
  • $63 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which provides loans for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Alexander is the 3rd ranking Republican member, approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Act, which is consistent with the spending limits included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 approved by Congress, and signed by President Trump, in February. The legislation is now ready for consideration by the full Senate. 

 

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