Sunday, June 14, 2020

Senator Alexander's Restore Our Parks Act heads to a vote next week. It will restore hundreds of parks, cut maintenance back log.

Lamar Alexander
by Senator Lamar Alexander - The United States Senate is considering the most important conservation legislation that we’ve had in half a century, the Great American Outdoors Act. The legislation has the strong support of President Trump, the last six Secretaries of the Interior, over 800 sportsmen and conservation groups, and 60 senators — Democrats and Republicans — who are working together in a remarkable way. It will do more for our public lands than any piece of legislation we have passed in at least 50 years.

Here is how this bill will help the Smokies: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has $224 million dollars of deferred maintenance and an annual budget of about $20 million a year. So you don't have to have gone too far in mathematics in the Maryville public school system to understand that it would probably never be able to get rid of the deferred maintenance in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park without a bill like this. Now that's a massive disappointment to people who consider our national parks as our greatest treasures – who go to our parks and find a campground closed, a bathroom not working, a bridge that's closed, a road with potholes, a trail that’s worn out or a visitor center that could be dilapidated.

The Great American Outdoors Act includes legislation I introduced, the Restore Our Parks Act, which will help restore our 419 national parks – from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Grand Canyon to Yosemite National Park – by cutting in half that maintenance backlog over the next five years.

Another important part of the Great American Outdoors Act is that it fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanently. The LWCF’s goal is to take an environmental burden – drilling on federal lands – and turn it into an environmental benefit by supporting state and federal conservation programs. The LWCF has played a large role in protecting the outdoors. In our state, the LWCF has provided about $221.4 million for conservation and outdoor recreation efforts since the 1960s. I hope we in the Senate have great success with this bill. I know that the people of Tennessee are looking forward to it.

Rod's Comment: This is a great accomplishment of Senator Alexander.  I love the great outdoors.  I want critical habitats saved and beautiful spots preserved.  I want national parks to be open and accessible and the bathrooms to work.  Protecting lands cannot be a single-minded focus. however. We can go overboard by prohibiting grazing and gas and oil exploration on pubic lands when grazing may even have a positive benefit and when the gas and oil facilities may only be a dot in a massive wilderness.  All policies are a balance with competing concerns, but I support national parks and efforts in Tennessee to save beautiful spots.  I want our national treasures to be available for the next generation.

Once a park is set aside for pubic enjoyment, it does of course result in on-going expense. From serving in local government and a long time observer of government at all levels, maintenance is easily deferred.  For one thing, a little deferred maintenance is hardly noticeable.  By deferring maintenance, you can free that money to fund new programs favored by the public or special interest.  No one notices a little deferred maintenance; the effect is little by little and cumulative until things no longer work or are in dire need of replacement.  Also, if politician fund a new public facility, a park or a building, they may get their name on a brass plaque.  No one gets a brass plaque for filling a pot hole.

Some have criticized Alexander for the slow pace at which he has moved this legislation.  Also, he is near the end of his service in the Senate and there was fear that something might derail this bill and Alexander would leave the Senate before he got this passed. He has been working on it a long time.  I am not going to second guess him on the timing.  In today's contentious partisan climate it can take time to build bipartisan support.  

This is a great legacy for Lamar Alexander and a great benefit to the people who enjoy America the beautiful.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

No comments:

Post a Comment