As Congress makes its way through the lame duck session, several hot button issues await action.
Important legislation will be considered over the next two weeks that, if passed, will provide desperately needed resources to address infrastructure repairs, maintenance and upkeep of some of our nation’s most prized assets: our national parks, monuments, and historic sites. We urge Congress to take swift action to consider bipartisan action that addresses what amount to decades of decay in some of our nation’s most treasured lands, and restore these sites so that all of us can enjoy the benefits and opportunities these lands provide.
Now is the time to restore our national treasures. Aging infrastructure, years of inconsistent federal funding for our parks and increased visitation have all contributed to a repair backlog of $11.6 billion – more than triple the annual National Park Service budget. These deferred maintenance needs in our parks pose one of the greatest risks to protecting these diverse historic and cultural places and ensuring that they are available for future generations.
Here in Colorado, our state and national parks need $238 million to perform maintenance that has been deferred due to budget constraints. Rocky Mountain National Park alone needs almost $85 million. And in places where native Coloradans should see their heritage respected and reflected – places like Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments, or the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site – this backlog threatens our ability to research and tell this more complete American story.
As part of a growing community of supporters of our public lands, we support robust, dedicated, consistent and long-term funding to address this maintenance backlog. In particular, a robust deferred maintenance program will:
Create work opportunities supporting the short-term maintenance needs and long-term operations of revitalized facilities, with specific opportunities to engage marginalized communities that are currently underrepresented in the public lands workforce;Improve access to our parks, monuments, and historic sites, particularly for underserved communities; andEnsure adequate funding to rehabilitate and maintain sites that may not yet have many visitors, yet tell critical stories about our nation’s past, and diverse communities’ experiences in America.Currently, there is a bipartisan, bicameral effort in Congress to provide reliable, dedicated funding to help address our parks maintenance backlog. Current proposed legislation would direct up to $1.3 billion annually for five years from federal mineral revenues such as royalties from on-shore and off-shore oil, gas, coal and other mineral operations, as well as renewables, that are not already allocated by law to other programs.
Taxpayer dollars are not used to fund the program.
This issue is one where both Democrats and Republicans agree: we support our public lands, and we want to make sure that all of us have access to the opportunities that they offer. In fact, both Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Cory Gardner have been strong supporters of the bill.
We stand ready to work with all parties to reach agreement on our ultimate goal – dedicated deferred maintenance funding that helps fix our parks and preserves the stories of all Americans for future generations.
Teresa Martinez is the executive director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, in Golden