Congress Must Be Champions for Our National Parks
With the 2020 election right around the corner, we have an opportunity to continue building a pro-national parks Congress. Members of Congress, who represent the American people, must ensure the greatest protection and preservation for our parks, as well as provide important funding for these iconic places. From canyon country to solemn battlefields to wild rivers to stories of our ancestors, national parks are the places future generations will enjoy, learn from and be inspired by.
Americans care deeply about national parks and believe they deserve the best protection possible.
To keep Congress moving in the right direction, as well as hold members accountable, the National Parks Action Fund is tracking how members of the 116th Congress vote on important park protection bills — from park funding to critical preservation tools like the Antiquities Act to safeguards for water and wildlife. We are also tracking member votes on political appointees, who oversee the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.
It’s easy for members of Congress to say they love national parks, but the decisions they make in Washington have profound effects — both directly and indirectly — on all national parks.
Our country’s national parks hold some of America’s most precious natural and cultural resources from the volcanic landscapes of Haleakalā to the paths trekked by Harriet Tubman to the rocky coastlines of Acadia. Here’s how Congress can stand strongly for these beloved places and the stories they protect:
Pass appropriations bills and the Restore Our Parks Act (H.R. 1225 / S. 500) to fund park rangers, maintenance, visitor programs and resource protection. Today, the National Park Service has a $11.9 billion backlog in overdue maintenance projects due to years of funding shortfalls by Congress. Parks are plagued with outdated water pipelines and thousands of miles of crumbling roads and hiking trails. All of this threatens park staff’s ability to protect our cultural and natural resources from the Jefferson Memorial at the National Mall to miles of trails in Zion National Park.
Ensure the integrity of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by supporting the PAW and FIN Conservation Act (H.R. 4348 / S. 2491). The administration finalized rules in August that would gut the ESA, making it more difficult to protect threatened species and designate critical habitat, as well as preventing agencies from considering climate change in decision making. The PAW and FIN Conservation Act would repeal these damaging regulations and help protect national park habitats of over 600 threatened or endangered species.
Protect park landscapes from impacts of oil and gas development on neighboring and adjacent public lands by supporting Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act (H.R. 3225). This bill would reform the leasing program, reinstating stakeholder-driven processes to plan oil and gas development in appropriate places that won’t disrupt wildlife, tourism, and park resources, better protecting our parks from the impacts of oil and gas development.
Our parks deserve better and so do the American people. We commend the park champions who have worked to strengthen protections for national parks across the country and encourage them to continue fighting for our parks. For the congressional members and Senators who have yet to make our parks and public lands a priority, there’s still time to listen to the American people and step up to better protect our parks. It’s vital to have members of Congress from across the nation and across the aisle, work together to protect our treasured places, for all who experience them now and for those who will come long after us.