Interior Secretary Zinke Visits Zion To Talk Park Maintenance
ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah – It’s time to upgrade the roads, bathrooms and campgrounds on America’s public lands. That was the message on Monday from U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as he visited Zion National Park, along with three members of Utah’s Congressional delegation.
“No one loves public land more than I do. I’m a western guy,” Secretary Zinke said while touring Utah’s most popular park. “What I also understand is the importance of the American conservation ethic, is that we are obligated as a country to make sure that we support our public lands.”
Utah Republican representatives Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis joined Zinke for the tour and a subsequent roundtable discussion about the National Park Service’s $12 billion maintenance backlog.
Bishop, the chairman of the House National Resources Committee, was the sponsor of H.R. 6510 – the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act – which seeks to use royalties from energy development, including renewable energy, to pay for the deferred maintenance.
“This is important for regular Americans to have access to public lands,” Bishop said while standing next to Zinke in Zion Canyon. “You don’t have to special. You don’t have really rich to get in here. That’s why this maintenance has to be maintained.”
Zinke said Bishop’s proposal, which has broad support with 172 co-sponsors, is fiscally responsible.
“If you don’t get the infrastructure today, it’s a liability in the future,” Zinke said. “It’s going to cost more tomorrow.”
According to National Park Service data from Sept. 2017, Utah’s parks, monuments and recreation areas have $266.2 million in maintenance needs.
The official summary of the bipartisan bill said that it would provide mandatory funding to address the deferred maintenance backlog and that the new fund would receive 50 percent, up to $1.3 billion each year, of the unallocated revenue from energy production on federal lands.
“This is using money that’s going to be generated from public lands to do our stewardship responsibility of providing for public lands,” Bishop said.
Bishop was joined by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., the committee’s ranking member, as they introduced the bill in July.
“The idea of dedicating energy development funds to conservation goes back to the creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964,” Grijalva said at the time. “I’m pleased to join Chairman Bishop to add overdue maintenance and repair work at national parks and public lands to the list of projects eligible for this dedicated funding.”
“As America’s beloved national parks buckle under the weight of broken pipes, crumbling roads, and other incomplete projects, additional funding is crucial to keeping parks safe and accessible for the public,” Bishop said when the committee passed the bill on Sept. 12. “This bill addresses that need.”
Bishop went on to say that, “Maintaining our national parks knows no party lines.”
Here is a list of Utah’s national recreation areas with the most maintenance needs:
- Zion National Park: $65.3 million
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: $63.7 million
- Canyonlands National Park: $40.7 million
- Bryce Canyon National Park: $27.1 million
- Arches National Park: $25.6 million
- Dinosaur National Monument: $15.4 million
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