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States are poised to help resettle Afghan evacuees who fled their home country after the U.S. military exit; efforts emerge to help Native Americans gain more clean energy independence.

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Sen. Mitch McConnell refuses to support raising the debt ceiling; Biden administration pledges $500 million of COVID vaccine doses globally; and U.S. military says it's taking steps to combat sexual assault.

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One Year Later, Great American Outdoors Act Projects Underway in Maine

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021   

BAR HARBOR, Maine -- One year after the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law, repairs and maintenance to the nation's more than 400 national parks and monuments are under way.

The bipartisan bill allocated $6.65 billion over five years for national park repairs, nearly $3 billion for maintenance at other land-management agencies, and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said if there was any doubt about the value of national parks to Americans, it was erased last year with the surge in visitations.

"Even in the COVID year, 327 million people visited our national parks," King reported. "The population of America is about 330 million people. So obviously, there were a lot of foreign visitors and visitors who went more than once, but still, we're talking about a treasured national asset."

National Park Service data show park visitors in 2019 spent roughly $21 billion in local communities, supporting more than 340,000 jobs. Close to 4.5 million people visited Acadia National Park alone.

David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, noted $25 million have been approved for a new maintenance center at the park; the hub for all the equipment, vehicles, supplies and tools used for maintenance and repairs to trails and carriage roads. He added the building has needed serious work for decades, but there has been a backlog across the country.

"A lot of these projects are not glamorous, you know; they're wastewater systems, they're water lines, they're bridges, they're culverts," MacDonald outlined. "This is the infrastructure that was really, really in bad shape."

King pointed out one issue to deal with in the future is overcrowding, including congestion with too many vehicles in the most popular parks. He also recommended people seek out some lesser-known but still great parks.

"Get a little bit off the beaten path, and you'll find some gems that you didn't know about," King urged. "This is a big part of improving the experience more broadly and also alerting people to the existence of some great, wonderful places they might not have heard of."

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


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