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Senate Committee to Decide on National Parks Repair Spending

Nevada's Great Basin National Park saw nearly $10 million in visitor spending in 2017. (Tom Hilton/Flickr)
Nevada's Great Basin National Park saw nearly $10 million in visitor spending in 2017. (Tom Hilton/Flickr)
October 1, 2018

CARSON CITY, Nev. — National park sites in Nevada and across the U.S. are more than $11 billion behind in maintenance needs - but Congress may take action to address the issue this week.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss a proposed fix to the repair backlog for the National Park Service. Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Restore America's Parks Campaign, said Congress hasn't made a major investment to upgrade the parks in more than 50 years. But the Restore Our Parks Act, being considered by the Senate, would provide up to $6.5 billion over five years for maintenance.

"That would enable us to preserve historic projects, historic buildings, trails that are eroding, campgrounds and other visitor amenities, and ensure that visitor access is maintained,” Argust said.

She said even in a polarized Congress, there has been strong bipartisan support for investing in national parks. Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is on the committee considering the bill. According to the National Park Service, Nevada's national park sites, including Lake Mead and Great Basin, support more than 3,000 jobs and bring more than $260 million in visitor spending to the state.

State Assembly member Heidi Swank pointed out that tourism and outdoor recreation are critical to Nevada's economy.

"We know that that visitor experience is extremely important,” Swank said. “And with $152 million in deferred maintenance in the state of Nevada alone, we know that's going to reduce that quality of the experience that our visitors will have."

The Restore Our Parks Act proposes to pay for repairs with royalties from energy projects on federal lands. If the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approves the bill, the legislation would still need approval from the full House and Senate.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - NV