Manchin: Bipartisan Solutions Needed To Address Parks Deferred Maintenance Backlog

June 18, 2019

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks click here

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning click here

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, stressed the need for bipartisan solutions to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks during a hearing to examine deferred maintenance on federal lands administered by the Department of the Interior and the USDA Forest Service.

“Addressing the maintenance backlog will allow the agencies to fulfill their mission of protecting nationally significant treasures and provide access to people that use these lands for hunting, fishing, shooting, and hiking,” Senator Manchin said.“I believe our best chance of getting something enacted is to try and pass the “Restore Our Parks Act,” from Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander, King and others.  I am cosponsoring this bill along with 37 of my colleagues. This bill would provide mandatory funding of $6.5 billion over five years to address national park funding needs.  I understand the House companion includes funding for other agencies in addition to the Park Service, and we can explore those options in more detail today.” 

Senator Manchin questioned Scott Cameron, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, U.S. Department of the Interior, about the Administration’s budget that proposes cuts to maintenance staffing and how it would hinder DOI’s ability to address the deferred maintenance backlog. 

“The President’s budget proposal cuts the Park Service’s construction and operations accounts that fund maintenance, along with a reduction of 128 full-time workers in those accounts. This is on top of the nearly 1,100 full-time staff reduction since 2009. How can you make that request and still be able to take care of deferred maintenance? Why are these cuts coming from the maintenance account?” Senator Manchin asked.

“Relatively speaking, we tried to protect maintenance but we do have a responsibility to provide for day to day visitor services in the parks and wildlife refuges. It’s a difficult balance, there’s no doubt about it,” Mr. Cameron said.“If Congress is able to enact something like the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund, I guarantee we will find the human resources to spend that money and spend it well. And spend it as quickly as we can to address problems at Acadia, and in West Virginia and Alaska and elsewhere around the country.” 

Senator Manchin also highlighted successful public-private partnerships in West Virginia that have created revenue.  

“I don’t think we can print enough money to take care of the problems and the public is not going to stand for us just throwing money at something but never curing the problem,” Senator Manchin said. “I’ll give you an example: we do skeet shooting in all of our state parks in West Virginia because people wanted some type of activity. It’s been wonderful.” 

The hearing featured testimony from representatives from U.S. Department of the Interior, USDA Forest Service, Public Lands Alliance, Coconino County Board of Supervisors and Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. To read their testimonies click here

To watch the hearing in full click here