A U.S. Senate committee is expected to vote this week on a measure that could inject billions of dollars into national parks, in Wyoming and across the nation. If passed, the Restore Our Parks Act would approve up to $6.5 billion over five years to help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog at national parks.
Marcia Argust, director of the Restore America's Parks Campaign at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said Wyoming's seven national parks and monuments are the backbone of many local economies, and supported 12,000 jobs in 2017.
"In Wyoming, where Senator Barrasso is a member of the Senate committee that will take up this vote next week, parks contribute over $880 million in direct spending to communities each year" Argust said.
Wyoming's iconic national park sites - including Yellowstone and Grand Teton - are major contributors to the state's economy, but they're over $700 million behind on repairs and maintenance. Argust said the trails, campgrounds and other visitor amenities that need updating are affecting visitors' safety as well as their park experiences.
She said even though Congress hasn't made a significant investment to upgrade national parks in 50 years, she's optimistic this legislation will pass. She noted even in Washington's polarized climate, there is strong support for protecting recreation access and bolstering local economies that depend on park visitation.
"This action is landmark, bipartisan legislation, in a committee that is typically at odds over public lands issues," Argust said. "And it shows that protecting our parks and local economies transcends politics."
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, it would still need approval from the full House and Senate.