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Public-Private Investment Proposed to Help National Park Service Out of Deferred Maintenance Hole


A proposal from President Obama on Sept. 1 targets helping national parks climb out of an $11.5 billion deferred maintenance hole. But will Congress get behind the effort?

The National Park Service Centennial Act would establish a dedicated, guaranteed federal fund of $100 million each year for three years, and be matched with private contributions from individuals, foundations or businesses, according to a press release from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

The release indicates the proposal is part of a strategy first proposed during the George W. Bush administration, the Centennial Challenge Fund.

The proposed amount helps address the crumbling infrastructure in the country's national park, but it only provides a fraction of what is truly needed to solve the problem.

NPCA’s chief operating officer Theresa Pierno released a statement on the proposal:

The “announcement is an extremely important contribution to the debate of how to fund our parks and we hope it will help encourage bipartisan efforts underway in Congress. The Centennial Challenge Fund is based on a proven, viable, and bipartisan approach for using federal funding to leverage private dollars in order to make critical investments in our national parks. Dedicated federal dollars provide certainty for the private sector and allow for a multi-year fundraising effort. As a result, this initiative could leverage millions of additional dollars for the Parks and their surrounding communities for the Centennial and beyond.

"There is a successful track record for leveraging additional investments when Congress commits to a federal match, and parks are no different. Both a Democratic president and a Republican president have seen the value of this approach as part of a broader strategy for protecting our parks because the results speak for themselves. For every $1 investment in our parks, $10 come back into their local communities. This initiative will pay dividends in helping to grow those local economies and the jobs they support. "This is an essential piece of a broader strategy to fully fund our parks, including more robust investment for park roads in the federal transportation bill. After years of declining federal funding, our parks struggle with an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog. Ranger jobs have gone unfilled and roads and trails have gone unrepaired. We are encouraged by President Obama’s commitment to help our parks get back on track. Support for parks extends well beyond party lines. Now is the time for Congress to act and restore America’s national treasures. It is time to make our national parks a national priority."

A full draft of the press release can be seen here

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