Outdoor Diversity and Inclusion Advocates Press Congress for Swift Passage of Deferred Maintenance Backlog Bill
Washington, D.C., September 20, 2018 – Aging infrastructure, years of inconsistent federal funding for our parks, and record high visitation levels have all contributed to a deferred maintenance backlog of $11.6 billion — more than triple the annual National Park Service (NPS) budget. These deferred maintenance needs pose one of the greatest risks to protecting these diverse historic and cultural places and ensuring that they are available for future generations.
Today, members of the Next 100 Coalition met with bipartisan congressional representatives to press for continued committed action to protect our great outdoors. Next 100 Coalition members, representing 45 organizations and their constituencies across more than twenty states, discussed their vision for a dedicated, long term, consistent deferred maintenance funding mechanism that effectively restores national parks in much need of adequate upkeep. The group also discussed how addressing the deferred maintenance backlog, as well as reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), can be used to thoughtfully promote a culture of diversity and inclusion that accurately represents the changing face of our nation.
“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are listening, “said Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director of Creation Justice Ministries “Even in these divisive times, it’s clear that a number of our leaders understand the urgency of our communities’ stewardship needs. This is an opportunity to create a lasting legacy of preservation, conservation and stewardship for future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. It’s heartening to see leaders come together to see this work get done the right way.”
Coalition members met with representatives from more than 20 Congressional offices. They impressed upon Members and their staff the significant benefits of deferred maintenance and other long-term funding programs including:
- Creating work opportunities supporting the short-term maintenance needs and long-term operations of revitalized facilities, with specific opportunities to engage marginalized communities that are currently underrepresented in the public lands workforce;
- Improving access to our parks, monuments, and historic sites, particularly for underserved communities; and
- Ensuring adequate funding to rehabilitate and maintain sites that may not yet have many visitors, yet tell critical stories about our nation’s past and diverse communities’ experience in America.
According to Ben Gabriel, Executive Director of the Montana Wilderness Association, “Bipartisan leadership has been critically important to seeing this matter continue to advance through Congress. While this is a matter of ensuring proper repairs are completed in a consistent fashion, this is much bigger than leaving places better than we find them. It’s about creating a pipeline of engaged citizens. We want to actively encourage all people, even those who perhaps have never engaged with the outdoors, to become personally and emotionally invested in preserving our public lands for all future generations to enjoy.”
Representative Nanette Barragán (D-CA) said, “Our national parks are the crown jewels of our country, but due to chronic underfunding the national park system remains in a critical state of disrepair. Without adequate funding for maintenance that preserves our beautiful lands and rich history, the deferred maintenance backlog will grow and our parks will continue to suffer. It’s encouraging to see so many dedicated individuals from all over the country come together to support this bipartisan effort.”
The Coalition believes that no matter what legislation is ultimately passed on deferred maintenance, that vehicle should create a dedicated, long-term funding source for uninterrupted maintenance of our national parks without interfering with funding for the LWCF. The funding deadline for the LWCF is September 30.