Bill Proposes Bolstering National Park Funding With Energy Production Revenue
The Park Service is sitting on an $11 billion repair backlog. Crumbling roads account for about half of those deferred expenses. Tennessee Republican Senator, Lamar Alexander, is lead sponsor of a new bill to increase park infrastructure funding using revenue from energy production on federal lands and offshore drilling.
"Ken Burns said the National Parks are America's best idea. This is the best idea to improve the national parks that I've heard of," said Alexander.
The bill, dubbed the 'National Parks Restoration Act,' would take half the money the federal government gets from on and offshore production above 2018 forecasts and not dedicated for another use. Bill sponsors don't have an estimate for how much revenue their proposal could bring in.
The proposal has the support of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
"It is all energy. It is not just oil and gas. It's a fair proposition to say if you're going to raise wealth on public lands - primarily offshore and BLM - you should also invest in the future of public lands, particularly in our parks," said Zinke.
Montana's Republican Senator Steve Daines is one of the bill's co-sponsors.
"Congress is rightfully accused of kicking the can down the road all the time. We have a chance this moment to step forward and address this issue for future generations," said Daines.
Emily Douce of the National Parks Conservation Association says that the group is taking a wait and see approach to the proposed Parks Restoration Act.
"We are worried about where the funding is coming from, and its potential connection to additional oil and gas revenue sources that might be sensitive to our national parks or other federal lands," said Douce.
Montana's Senior Senator, Democrat Jon Tester, says he wants to evaluate all the funding bills before committing to any single proposal. Tester, however, says under no circumstances will he endorse a Park Service proposal to nearly double entrance fees at 17 of its most popular parks.