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Tell Congress to Restore Our Parks

Our National Park infrastructure is failing.

Our nation’s public lands are showing too much wear and tear. Due to lack of funding and support from our government, much of the infrastructure in our public lands has fallen into disrepair while the National Park Service (NPS) and other agencies wait for the funding needed to fix these problems. This backlog of repairs is commonly referred to as “deferred maintenance.”

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The current deferred maintenance of America’s public lands is over $20 billion. About $20 million of that is the Appalachian Trail’s deferred maintenance, which covers everything from the footpath itself to the shelters, bridges and other structures that are vital for the safety of A.T. visitors and the preservation of the surrounding environments.

These are not cyclical, or regular repairs, like replacing a broken window. These are repairs that go to our ability to access and enjoy our National Parks. NPS alone is responsible for protecting and managing over 75,000 “assets” in our National Parks — roads, bridges, visitor centers and, of course, trails — and 41,000 of these assets have deferred maintenance needs. That’s over half of the assets in our National Parks.

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As you know, the A.T. doesn’t just take care of itself: a network of over 6,000 volunteers, as well as the A.T.’s 31 Maintaining Clubs and the staff of the ATC, work tirelessly to make sure that the A.T. is safe and that the Wild East continues to inspire people around the world. But the grit and talent of our volunteers aren’t enough to get the A.T. all the resources it needs. It’s up to people like you to make sure that Washington hears how important it is to increase funding for deferred maintenance needs.

There are two bills in Congress that could greatly increase funding for deferred maintenance.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are both currently weighing two related bills designed to greatly increase the funding for deferred maintenance in National Parks.

The Senate bill (S. 500), also known as the “Restore Our Parks Act” or “ROPA,” dedicates up to $6.5 billion to NPS deferred maintenance over five years. ROPA would reallocate funds from onshore gas and coal production and offshore oil production — not taxpayer dollars — to repair the facilities, roads, shelters and trails in National Parks.

The House bill (H.R. 1225), also known as the “Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,” is similar to the Senate bill in that it allocates $6.5 billion for deferred maintenance needs. The primary difference is that this funding would be divided among several Federal agencies: 80% to NPS, 10% to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5% to Bureau of Land Management recreation, and 5% to Bureau of Indian Education facilities.

Neither of these bills would divert funding from programs such as the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), creating a separate fund specifically focused on deferred maintenance needs.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy currently supports both of these bills, as they would greatly increase our ability to maintain and preserve locations like the A.T. Additionally, we are working with Congressional offices to make sure that the deferred maintenance needs of the U.S. Forest Service — approximately $5 billion — are not forgotten, as 40% of the A.T. is located on Forest Service lands.

Your voice can make a difference.

By contacting your Senator and Representatives and asking them to cosponsor these bills, you are standing up for the Appalachian Trail and all of the other public lands that help millions each year experience America’s Great Outdoors. Together, we can help ensure that the A.T. and our National Parks are protected for centuries to come.

Lead image courtesy of Brent McGuirt Photography.