It’s time to get serious about the maintenance backlog in America’s Great Outdoors. That’s the message of a striking new video from the Department of the Interior. The video was premiered at a Capitol Hill event hosted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and featuring Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) July 31. To see the full video, click here.
America’s public lands and waters host nearly 900 million recreation visits every year, providing significant economic benefits to communities across the country. But major problems still remain. The combined deferred maintenance and repair backlog of the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service – which amounts to $18.62 billion and includes trails, campgrounds, roads, visitor centers, bathrooms, staff housing, water systems, thousands of historic buildings and more – hampers access to, and enjoyment of America’s public lands and waters by visitors everywhere.
“Last year, more than 300 million people visited America’s national parks. Unfortunately, many roads and bridges, visitor centers, historic buildings, trails and campgrounds in our parks need critical repairs and upgrades to meet the needs of today’s visitors,” says the video. “The national parks are special places of wonder. We must meet the challenge of preserving them for our children and grandchildren.”
Public-private partnerships hold the potential to augment public financing of maintenance and repair projects. Federal land management agencies should submit request for proposals to the public to operate, maintain, improve, or fund outdoor recreation assets with insufficient funding before they’re forced to close, unless there is an imminent health or safety threat. This would provide opportunities for current businesses, non-profit organizations, volunteers, concessioners, and other governmental and private entities to weigh in on increasing access and improving infrastructure on public lands and waters.
To learn more about how public-private partnerships can help overcome the maintenance backlog and improve visitor experiences, click here. To learn more about the United State Senate’s “Restore Out Parks Act,” click here. To learn more about action in the U.S. House of Representatives, click here.