Oct 31 2019
There is no doubt that we are blessed with beautiful, useful, and fruitful lands in our nation. And there is no doubt that some of them should be preserved as national treasures.
But unfortunately, the federal government owns far more of these lands than it should – and far more than it can feasibly take care of.
The amount is staggering. In fact, it owns more than 640 million acres of land – a total larger than the entireties of France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, the U.K., Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands combined.
With such a vast estate, it’s no wonder there is currently a $19.38 billion maintenance backlog on these lands.
Of that backlog, $11.92 billion is on lands owned and managed by the National Park Service.
In fact, there are NPS backlogs in every single state in the country. On one end of the spectrum, there is a $1.3 million backlog on the national park properties in Delware, and the backlog for parks in Rhode Island is just under $1 million. On the other hand, California alone has 1.8 Billion dollar maintenance backlog, just on it’s national parks. In just one state!
What does this mean?
It means that damage from wildfires, ill-kept roads and trails, and neglected facilities have actually kept citizens from accessing our national treasures. National Treasures like Yosemite and Yellowstone, our National Mall and the Grand Canyon. The visitors who come from far and wide to see them are either unable to see them at all, or don’t have a good experience when they do.
All the while, Washington continues to purchase ever more land… and, so, the maintenance backlog rises each year.
Mr./Madam President, this must not continue. If we continue on this path, we will only do greater disservice to our citizens and to the lands themselves.
That’s why I have introduced an amendment that would stop the federal government’s use of taxpayer dollars to acquire more lands for the next year.
Specifically, it would prevent the money currently going to the Land and Water Conservation fund, the range improvement funds, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service from being used to acquire new lands that the federal government cannot properly care for.
This amendment would not reduce the dollar amount being given to any of these programs. It would simply re-prioritize the money to ensure it is being used to care for the lands we already own… and which need it so desperately.
While some of my colleagues disagree with me and believe that we should continue growing the federal estate, I ask that – at least for this year – we think of our current lands and national parks.
These lands won’t be “national treasures for everyone” if we don’t take proper care of them. If we continue this pattern of neglect, they will be treasures for no one.
For now, at the very least, we ought to ensure that they are safe and accessible for generations to come. Our lands and our citizens deserve no less.
I yield the floor.