U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican who represents Tennessee, says bipartisan legislation aimed at tackling the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog facing the country’s national park system would be the most important thing to happen to the national park system in 50 years.
Alexander’s comments were first published in the Oak Ridger and later shared by the RVIA.
“One of America’s greatest story tellers, Ken Burns, has called our country’s national parks ‘America’s best idea.’ But today, America’s ‘best idea’ is in trouble,” Alexander said. “Our national park system has a $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. This means that the park system doesn’t have the money needed to maintain our parks’ road, bridges and campgrounds.”
Alexander points to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as an example. The park’s Lock Rock Campground has been closed for five years because of the water treatment facility. Alexander said that means the 5,000 families who used Look Rock Campground can’t go anymore.
Alexander is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, which recently passed the Restore Our Parks Act. He said if the full Senate passes the legislation, the country could get rid of half of the parks’ deferred maintenance backlog in the next five years.
The legislation, Alexander said, will use revenue from energy production on federal lands to provide mandatory funding for the maintenance backlog.
“This is a well-established conservation principle,” Alexander said, “taking some of the money created by an environmental burden and using for an environmental benefit.”
Alexander said in this age of iPads and iPhones and Alexa and Netflix, the country’s national parks are more, not less important.
“They preserve beauty for everyone to share,” he said. “Parents bring children out of their digital diet to feast on a world of natural splendor. We learn our history in a place where history comes alive—not just the history of the world, but the history of East Tennessee, the history of Wyoming, the history of Maine and the history of Montana.”