Sen. Murkowski: Park Service Needs to Look at Alternative Funding for Maintenance Backlog

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today expressed her frustration with the National Park Service’s (NPS) handling of their maintenance backlog, which they estimate to be up to $13 billion, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

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“We are taking a very important step with today’s hearing in starting the discussion about how to begin addressing the National Park Service’s $13 billion maintenance backlog,” Murkowski said. “This is not an issue that should be solved through additional federal funding. We must look at new and alternative ways to find funding, and also reassess our current funding priorities.”

The NPS received $2.6 billion in federal authorizations last year. The NPS also uses a portion of visitor entrance fees to pay for maintenance projects. However, it is clear that the existing NPS funding levels do not address the growing maintenance backlog.

“It strikes me as counterintuitive to be adding more lands to the maintenance list when the lands the government already owns have so clearly proven too much for NPS to handle,” Murkowski said. “Coming from a state where the federal government owns nearly 70 percent of the land, I always approach requests to purchase additional federal land with skepticism. But during these tough economic times, I cannot imagine why purchasing more land is such a priority.”

One potential solution, Murkowski said, is to use a portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to address the maintenance. The NPS should also look at enhancing its volunteer programs to help reduce the maintenance needs. 

Murkowski also touched upon problems facing individuals and groups wishing to donate to the NPS, as well as the current recreational fee structure, which she feels is inequitable across the National Park System.

Murkowski is the senior senator for Alaska and the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.