Alexander: Near Unanimous Agreement on Bill to Provide Biggest Help to National Parks in 50 Years

Posted on December 18, 2018

Bipartisan bill would fill potholes, fix bathrooms, maintain trails and campgrounds, repair visitors’ centers

“When an idea this good – fixing our national parks for generations of Americans to enjoy – gets this much bipartisan support, it’s going to happen sooner or later. It’s hard to think that it will happen sooner – before the end of this year – with the only few weeks left in the session. But I hope that later is no later than the beginning of next year." – Sen. Lamar Alexander

 

WASHINGTON, December 18, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Republicans and Democrats who often disagree are in near unanimous agreement on legislation to help fix our national parks.

"Today, too many of our National Parks are in bad shape and American families spending their vacations in our National Parks are often shocked to find that so many of the roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds, and visitor centers are in such bad shape or even closed,” Alexander said. “In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the most visited national park in the country – visitors spend 400,000 nights camping in 9 front-country campgrounds and 100 backcountry camp sites. Five thousand families used to enjoy Look Rock Campground every year, but, in 2013, the park had to close the campground and the picnic area due to funding shortfalls in replacing the water treatment facilities.”

“The Restore Our Parks Act would be the biggest help to the National Park Service in 50 years – it would cut in half the maintenance backlog at our 418 national park sites. The legislation would help fill potholes, fix bathrooms, maintain trails and campgrounds, repair visitors’ centers, and restore our 418 national parks so Americans can enjoy them. In the Senate, we have 37 bipartisan cosponsors. The House version of the bill has over 230 bipartisan cosponsors, including the chairman and ranking member of the committee. The House Natural Resources Committee approved their version of the bill unanimously, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill by a vote of 19-4. The legislation is supported by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, the Trump Administration and more than 100 conservation groups. When an idea this good – fixing our National Parks for generations of Americans to enjoy – gets this much bipartisan support, it’s going to happen sooner or later. It’s hard to think that it will happen sooner – before the end of this year – with the only few weeks left in the session. But I hope that later is no later than the beginning of next year.” 

Alexander gave his remarks on the Senate floor along with Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Angus King (I-Maine). You can watch Alexander’s remarks here.

Alexander introduced the Senate version of the Restore Our Parks Act, along with U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine). The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Restore Our Parks Act on July 11, 2018, and approved the legislation on October 2, 2018. The legislation has 37 bipartisan cosponsors. The legislation could cut in half the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks over the next five years and has been praised by the Trump Administration.

The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.

Read more from Tennesseans on why Alexander’s legislation is important:

The Chattanoogan: Jennie Bartoletti: Our National Parks Are Desperate for Repairs

The Knoxville News Sentinel: Vesna Plekanis: Thanks to Senator Lamar Alexander for fighting for Smokies funding

The Jackson Sun: Senator Lamar Alexander works to restore Shiloh, other national parks

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Lamar Alexander is the senior senator from Tennessee, and he serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. For his full biography, click here.