Senate Committee Approves More Money to Reduce the Maintenance Backlog at National Parks, Including Smokies
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the Senate Appropriations Committee took “a promising step,” to reduce the maintenance backlog at our national parks, including at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“The funding bill approved today includes increased funding to reduce the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in our nation’s 419 national parks. Alexander said. “This funding will help restore the campgrounds, trails and roads in what Ken Burns calls ‘America’s best idea’ – our national park system. This funding is a promising step in addressing the park maintenance backlog – and the next step is to pass the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation I introduced that would be the biggest help to our parks in a generation.”
The Restore Our Parks Act – bipartisan legislation introduced by Alexander – if passed will help address the nearly $12 billion national park maintenance backlog, including the $235 million backlog of projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The bill will use revenues from energy production on federal lands to provide mandatory funding for the maintenance backlog at our national parks.
On funding to help control Asian Carp, Alexander said: “Invasive species, especially Asian carp, are aggressively invading Tennessee waterways and threaten biodiversity, the economy and sporting from Memphis to Chattanooga. While the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is working to combat Asian carp in the Tennessee-Cumberland Sub-basin, additional federal resources are needed. I was glad to support the $25 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to combat this issue and protect commercial fishing and our nation’s waters.”
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, the boating industry has a $6 billion economic impact and supports over 20,000 jobs every year in Tennessee, and fishing generates $1.2 billion in economic output and supports almost 8,000 jobs in Tennessee.
On funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Alexander said: “This bill also provides $465 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has provided over $200 million over the last past fifty years to Tennessee for projects such as the Rocky Fork State Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Walls of Jericho. This funding is important because it will help preserve our state’s beautiful land, water resources and recreation areas so future generations have the same opportunities to enjoy them as we have.”
The Fiscal Year 2020 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Act provides:
- $13.7 billion for the Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- $465 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will fund a project in Tennessee – The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
- $3.36 billion for the National Park Service, including funding for operations at Tennessee’s national parks, which include the country’s most visited national park – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – and one of the country’s newest national parks – the Manhattan Project National Historic Park.
- Over $25 million, an increase of $14 million over enacted levels, to help states combat the serious threat of invasive Asian Carp on our nation’s waterways.
- $850 million for NPS facilities operation and maintenance and $392 million for NPS construction.
- $7.47 billion for the U.S. Forest Service, which includes the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee.
- $73 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which provides loans for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2020 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Act, which is consistent with the spending limits included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 approved by Congress, and signed by President Donald Trump, in August. The legislation is now ready for consideration by the full Senate.