Today, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) joined a group of eight senators and two representatives to introduce a bipartisan, bicameral bill that will use revenues from energy production on federal lands to help pay for the over $11 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks. That backlog includes $215 million for projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as the $35.2 million in outstanding debt owed to Swain County for rebuilding the North Shore Road.

CLICK HERE to watch Senator Tillis speak.
 
Joining Senator Tillis are Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Angus King (I-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) Joe Manchin (D- WV), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR). The group has been working with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on the National Park Restoration Act, which will help restore and rebuild roads, buildings, campgrounds, trails and water systems to preserve our country’s national parks for the next generation of visitors. 
 
“America was blessed with stunning landscapes that attract visitors from all over the world and add substantial economic and cultural value in regions like Western North Carolina,” said Senator Tillis. “We must actively work to rebuild and improve our National Parks, including the $215 million backlog in the Great Smoky Mountains and $35 million outstanding obligations to rebuild a road in Swain County that was destroyed in 1943. I want to thank Senator Alexander for taking an active lead to tackle deferred maintenance projects across the country and in the National Park our states share.”
 
“This legislation will help address the over $11 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks, including the $215 million backlog of projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” Senator Alexander said. “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures – and it has a tremendous economic impact in East Tennessee, attracting nearly twice the visitors of any other national park. Addressing the maintenance backlog will help attract even more visitors and create more jobs for Tennesseans. We must continue to work together to find solutions to the many challenges facing our public lands, and this legislation takes an important step toward doing that.”
 
“Introduction of this legislation is monumental to the growth of the economies of Swain, Jackson and Haywood Counties,” said North Carolina Representative Mike Clampitt. “I am very pleased at the cooperation and leadership of President Trump, Senator Tillis, Senator Burr, Representative Meadows and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to bring this very long and frustrating Road Agreement issue to closure for the citizens of Swain County. This bipartisan effort exemplifies the advantages of parties working together for the benefit of everyone. My gratitude also extends to our neighbor, Senator Lamar Alexander, for his assistance and leadership in the maintenance and upgrading of our Park facilities. These have been neglected for too long.  Swain and Haywood Counties are home to a vast majority of the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and passage of this legislation will greatly benefit this entire area.”
 
The National Park Restoration Act:
 
  • Creates the National Park Restoration Fund to provide mandatory funding for the high-priority deferred maintenance needs that support critical infrastructure and visitor services at our national parks.
  • Provides mandatory funding for the maintenance backlog on top of annual appropriations for operations and construction at the National Park Service.
  • The fund receives 50 percent of onshore and offshore revenues from energy production on federal lands over expected amounts that are not already allocated to other purposes. 
  • Protects payments to states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Reclamation Fund, and all other existing uses of onshore and offshore revenues. These existing uses will receive all of their funding before the National Park Restoration Fund receives any funding.
 
The backlog of infrastructure projects at our national parks can limit access and impair visitor experiences and recreation opportunities, and without additional funding, the backlog could continue to grow. The National Park Service (NPS) maintenance backlog is nearly four times what NPS receives in annual appropriations. In Fiscal Year 2017 the NPS’ deferred maintenance needs were $11.6 billion – that same fiscal year, NPS received $2.9 million in annual appropriations.
 
President Trump and Secretary Zinke have made addressing the growing maintenance backlog a top priority. 

 

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