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'National Park Week' Underscores $12 Billion Restoration Need
Ohio Ag Connection - 04/18/2017

This week, Americans and international visitors will explore the country's 417 national parks free of charge on the weekend of April 22-23, in celebration of National Park Week. Awaiting visitors are places that share America's history, roaring waterfalls and towering mountains -- as well as repair needs that affect nearly every park across the country.

This year's National Park Week caps off a record-breaking year; in 2016, national parks welcomed nearly 331 million visitors, a nearly 7.7 percent increase from the previous year.

But as visitation increases, so does the pressure on park staff and infrastructure. The National Park Service has long been understaffed and underfunded and currently faces nearly $12 billion in needed infrastructure repairs. Without an adequate investment by Congress, park managers do not have enough money to make those repairs. Congress is expected to finalize the budget for this fiscal year later this month, and next month, the president will offer a budget that is expected to undermine national parks' many budget needs.

"As we celebrate National Park Week, we hope visitors are inspired by the once-in-a-lifetime experiences our parks offer -- and leave feeling empowered to speak up for them," said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. "National Park Week provides the opportunity for visitors to become Park Advocates. And one of the best things people can do after their visit is to join National Parks Conservation Association in urging Congress and the Administration to work together to address this challenge so that the Park Service can continue preserving America's favorite places."

Legislation recently introduced in Congress, the National Park Service Legacy Act, S. 751, would address the Park Service's $12 billion maintenance backlog. The bill was introduced by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and has bipartisan support in the Senate.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.2 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation's natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

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