Committee Republicans Hold Hearing on Addressing Parks Infrastructure Needs as the Trump Administration Proposes to Slash DOI’s Budget

Washington, D.C.  – In the wake of the release of the Trump administration’s budget, Committee Republicans are holding a hearing this morning to explore “innovative ideas” to address the infrastructure needs of the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), a problem created because of congressional neglect and underfunding. Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) pointed out in a press release yesterday the real-world impacts the Trump administration’s proposed 12 percent budget cut across the Department of the Interior (DOI) would have on our park system, adding to the parks infrastructure backlog problem, not fixing it.

“We don’t need ‘innovative ideas’ to address our unfunded maintenance needs. We need Congress to do its job and fund our agencies,” Grijalva said. “Instead of trying to ‘innovate’ our way around a problem that doesn’t have to exist, let’s give national park and forest managers the money they need and let them do their jobs. Any budget or infrastructure package we consider must increase maintenance funding to be taken seriously. Weakening environmental laws won’t repair Arlington Memorial Bridge, and we shouldn’t be left hoping private sector donations will rebuild the water line at Grand Canyon National Park.”

The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that there is approximately $11.9 billion in deferred maintenance across NPS, most of which is at park units that are over 80 years old. NPS reported that it needs to spend approximately $700 million per year on deferred maintenance just to keep the number from growing. Unfortunately, despite a small increase in FY16, NPS’s construction account – which funds critical non-transportation repairs – is not sufficiently funded by Congress to keep up with project needs. 

Deferred maintenance across the National Forest System is estimated at $5 billion. Similar to NPS, USFS manages a large network of transportation assets – 370,000 miles of roads, 13,000 bridges and 158,000 miles of trails – in need of critical maintenance and upkeep. However, due to congressional inaction and longer, more intense wildfire seasons due to climate change, over half of the agency’s budget is directed to fire suppression activities.

Any House infrastructure package serious about addressing critical public lands infrastructure needs to fund the Federal Lands Transportation Program, increase congressional appropriations for national park construction, and fix the broken wildfire budget. 

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Diane Padilla

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