BOZEMAN – Senator Steve Daines’ effort to fully fund infrastructure needs at national parks, especially Yellowstone and Glacier might be facing some problems.
The Republican says National Parks in the US has $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance and right now there’s no way to pay for those needed repairs.
“I’m concerned we don’t have a really robust funding mechanism,” said Sen. Daines who found the money. “We looked at some of the offshore energy revenues.”
That would provide up to $6.5 billion for national parks in money that is not otherwise committed in the budget.
But Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is in line to become chair of the House Natural Resources Committee in January, and he’s not optimistic.
He says Sen. Daines proposal isn’t likely to pass in the lame duck session this month. He went on to say, quote, “if we can come out of land and water conservation fund with a permanent authorization, then we’ll talk about mandated money in the coming session.”
But Sen. Daines proposal does have support.
“Secretary [Ryan] Zinke has made it his highest legislative priority to establish a dedicated fund to address this backlog.,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholley said.
A lot of work, like a road construction south of Mammoth over the summer has been completed, but there’s a lot more that’s needed and needed quickly because visitation at the park is growing at the rate of 3% a year.
“Yellowstone, if you count all the numbers and all the ways, probably has a billion dollars of deferred maintenance backlog, most of that is in roads,” former Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis of using the energy revenues to pay for parks infrastructure would not affect federal revenues over a ten year period.
But Rep. Grijalva says the measure is opposed by Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) without a spending offset elsewhere.
Sen. Daines tells us the year isn’t over, that his measure has the support of Democrats and Republicans, including rep. Grijalva and Sen. Daines says he’ll keep pushing until he gets it passed.
The chief sponsor of the parks infrastructure bill is Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) who says he remains committed to the measure.
-John Sherer reporting for MTN News