Energy

Park Service To Take Better Care Of What It Has Instead Of Buying New Land

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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House lawmakers proposed giving the National Park Service (NPS) less money to purchase new land so it can focus on maintaining land it already manages.

Republican introduced a draft bill Wednesday to cut NPS funding by $64 million, largely stemming from cuts to land purchases. Most of the Park Service budget will go towards maintaining park operations and addressing the $12 billion dollar maintenance backlog.

“The agencies funded in the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill do important work protecting public lands, the air we breathe, and the water we drink,” Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, chairman of the House Interior Subcommittee, said in a statement. “Our subcommittee prioritized proven programs that have a meaningful impact to achieve these goals while also ensuring our economy can continue to grow.”

NPS needs to spend four times the amount it gets every year from Congress to fix its maintenance backlog, which is expected to grow each year, according to research from the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). Much of the maintenance backlog facing the agency is caused by expanding operations at the expense of basic upkeep.

The NPS added 18 new units to the national parks system since 2009, costing the agency an enormous amount of money. As the mission of NPS expanded, the agency became increasingly unable to fund necessary maintenance projects.

The correlation between new park units and deferred maintenance is quite direct. The U.S. government has spent more than $10 billion acquiring new public lands, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The full Appropriations Committee bill includes $31.4 billion in funding for many other U.S. environmental and public land programs. This is $824 million below last year’s levels, but roughly $4.3 billion above President Donald Trump’s budget request.

The NPS, the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies control a lot of land, but they generally lose money, even when renting it out to private industries for use. Additionally, the federal government imposes restrictions on how leased land can be used. Consequently, mining and energy tend to be the only profitable leases.

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