WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Steve Daines and eight other senators are throwing their support behind an ambitious plan to rebuild roads, bridges and other aging systems in Glacier and other National Parks.
It’s a plan that aims to tackle the $11 billion maintenance backlogs in the parks.
Secretary Ryan Zinke said “They’re being loved to death. We have an $11.6 billion backlog. About half of that is our roads. So as you enter parks, Americans deserve to have a parks system that is well funded, well operated and a visitor experience of our parks should remain sacred.”
It doesn’t take long to see the growing problems with the infrastructure on a visit to Glacier National Park. It’s not just that the park is having a hard time keeping up with the crowds from the record breaking crowds in recent years. The parks are simply wearing out.
On many of the park’s popular roads, tourists are busier dodging potholes than taking pictures. And there are many places where slides and washouts that are several years old are still waiting for repairs. That’s in addition to campgrounds, water systems and buildings that need work.
Under the plan developed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and supported by Daines and the other senators, Interior would use revenues from energy productions on federal lands to pay for the work.
At the same time, the bill would protect payments to states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other “existing uses”, which would still be prioritized over the National Park Restoration Fund.
Interior has said the backlog of Park Service maintenance is nearly four times what the agency receives in its annual appropriation.
New figures for fiscal year 2017 show a changing picture at Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
Yellowstone’s maintenance backlog actually decreased in the past year by more than 20 percent, but it still sits at more than $515 million.
However, Glacier National Park’s maintenance backlog increased by more than 6 percent, to more than $153 million.
The National Park Service is also considering a plan to increase entrance fees at the busiest National Parks, to help generate as much as $70 million for the maintenance backlog.
Entrance fees at Glacier and Yellowstone would double under the plan.
The public comment on the proposal ended in December. No decision has been announced.
You can view the full maintenance details here.