Bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act Keeps Up Momentum, Moves Closer to U.S. House Vote
A major national parks funding bill moved closer to a vote by the full U.S. House of Representatives this week after a key procedural move by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
The Restore Our Parks Act was introduced back in February and easily passed out of the committee in June by a bipartisan vote, but has been held up since then by Grijalva because of the lack of a fiscal score from the Congressional Budget Office, according to a report from E&E News. CBO provided that score during the last week of September, clearing the way for Grijalva to send it to the House floor.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), had expressed frustration that the bill has faced long delays, E&E News reports, citing his strategy to block other legislation until the parks bill is scheduled for a vote.
Faced with mounting maintenance backlogs at national parks across the country, the legislation has received massive bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, a rare occurrence in Congress at the moment. To help meet those funding needs, the Restore Our Parks Act would help reduce that deficit by devoting up to $1.3 billion a year from revenues generated by oil, gas, coal, and renewable energy development on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
In cleared the House Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 36-2 and it has currently has 202 Democratic and 127 Republican cosponsors, including senior western Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.)
The companion legislation in the Senate has 28 Democratic cosponsors including four who are running for president and Colorado Senator Cory is among 12 Republican cosponsors.
The bill also has strong support from the Trump Administration. In an interview with Western Wire in June, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt touted the strong bipartisan desire to address the infrastructure needs at national parks.
“I went through this confirmation process. There is a lot of disagreement in your confirmation process. For one thing, I met with over 41 senators. Everyone one of them, when I brought up this backlog, they were like, ‘oh yea, we need to do something about it.’ So, I think it’s really nudging them and getting them to work with us to do something,” Bernhardt said.
An analysis done by Western Wire of a Property and Environment Research Center report shows that western parks in particular have tremendous funding needs.
Yellowstone National Park, which stretches out over Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho faced a $515 million maintenance backlog in 2017, while Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico had $329 million and $46 million backlogs respectively.
The National Park Service has seen increased infrastructure and funding pressure from growing popularity. Visitation has quadrupled since 1960 to nearly 331 million visits in both 2016 and 2017.