Championed by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), the U.S. Senate passed the National Park Service Centennial Act, which will expand the Centennial Challenge, a public-private funding partnership, establish and fund a national parks endowment, and provide additional opportunities for young people and volunteers to serve in and learn from our parks. The act passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week.
The National Park Service Centennial Act (H.R. 4680) will help address some of the $12 billion in needed repairs to park infrastructure, such as unmaintained trails and deteriorating buildings and structures that help tell America’s story but are in danger of falling apart. These delayed repairs hamper visitor access and enjoyment just when parks are experiencing record-breaking attendance as they celebrate their centennial year. The legislation would also help fund educational programs to better connect younger Americans to parks.
Funding for these national park needs would come in part from formally establishing and providing dedicated funding for the Centennial Challenge, a proven and successful public-private partnership that leverages federal funds with private dollars for visitor-oriented projects in our national parks. Another important funding component is the establishment of an endowment to provide a path toward the long-term fiscal health of our national parks.
There is a successful track record for leveraging private dollars when Congress commits to a federal match. Over the last two years, a federal investment of $25 million from appropriated dollars cultivated twice that amount in private donations. This money was used for such projects as improving visitor walkways in Yellowstone and making critical repairs to the Old State House in Boston.
Other policy provisions provide clear authority to the National Park Service for better interpretation and education programs, offer additional opportunities for young people and veterans by expanding the Public Land Corps, and allow for extra funding support for volunteer programs.
Pierno also said that “One initiative is the Centennial Challenge Fund, a proven public-private partnership that uses federal funding to leverage private dollars for our national parks. Also, the bill establishes an endowment to build long-term funding support for our parks as they start their next 100 years. As the Park Service concludes its centennial year, there has never been a better time for Congress to help restore America’s national treasures. We hope the new administration and the next Congress continue this progress of better funding our national parks and directly addressing its $12 billion infrastructure repair backlog.”