CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, December 6, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4680, the National Park Service Centennial Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 4680 was introduced on March 3, 2016, by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, in addition to the Committees on Agriculture and Education and the Workforce. The Committee on Natural Resources ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on March 16, 2016.
H.R. 4680 commemorates the National Park Service Centennial and provides the National Park Service with new tools for a subsequent century of promoting and protecting the natural, historic, and cultural resources of our National Parks. Specifically, the legislation would establish several new funding and management authorities to help the NPS fund and prepare for a second century of promoting and protecting the parks, which are detailed below:
Title I – National Park Centennial Challenge Fund — H.R. 4680 establishes a Centennial Challenge Fund, which uses a 1:1 federal to private dollar match as a method to help finance signature projects planned for the next century by the Secretary of the Interior. This bill creates a new $20 annual pass for senior citizens and increases the senior lifetime pass to $80, equaling the price of the annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. Any revenue that is collected from sales of senior parks passes above $10 million will be deposited directly into the Centennial Challenge Fund.
Title II – National Park Foundation Endowment – H.R. 4680 creates a Second Century Endowment at the National Park Foundation (NPF), which will increase over time through the accruement of gifts, donations, bequests, and up to $10 million in federal money generated from the sale of senior parks passes. Further, the NPF can access and use funds placed in the Endowment for any project or activity authorized by the Secretary meant to further the mission of the NPS.
Title III – National Park Next Generation Stewards – H.R. 4680 raises the age limit for membership in the Public Lands Corps from 25 to 30 and changes the non-competitive hiring status for former Public Land Corps employees from 120 days after the participant’s service is completed to a maximum timespan of two years. Additionally, this legislation authorizes an increase in funding for the Volunteer in Parks program from $7 million to $9 million.
Title IV – National Park Foundation Authorities – In order to ensure continuity in leadership, H.R. 4680 designates the Secretary of the Interior and the NPS Director as ex officio, yet non-voting, members of the NPF Foundation Board. Additionally, the bill appropriates up to $5 million to the NPF for each of the fiscal years between 2017 and 2023; however, none of these funds are allowed to be allocated for administrative expenses, including salaries, travel and transportation costs, or other overhead expenses.
Title V – Miscellaneous – H.R. 4680 includes the General Chairman of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers as a new member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Furthermore, this bill would establish term limits for the Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that are coterminous with the President of the United States.
August 25, 2016, marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the National Park Service Organic Act, which first established the National Park Service (NPS). Operating within the Department of the Interior, the NPS was designated as the federal bureau responsible for promoting and protecting an initial amount of 35 national parks and monuments. Today, the National Park system contains over 400 units spanning over 84 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Saipan, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The NPS faces several challenges in preparing the parks for the next 100 years of public use and enjoyment, most notably dealing with the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Throughout the last century, as Congress voted to add new units to the National Park System and the NPS took on new duties accordingly, the NPS gradually fell behind on maintaining various projects. These projects include maintaining trails for public use, fixing wastewater systems, and repairing deteriorating structures such as roads and bridges. Additionally, NPS also faces many problems associated with fee collection, technological repairs and upgrades, as well as management of concessions contracts for visitor services.
Fortunately, this legislation helps to celebrate the NPS centennial by providing NPS with additional tools and authorities it can use to improve visitor experience and better maintain the parks. Most notably, H.R. 4680 creates the Centennial Challenge Fund, which NPS can use to leverage philanthropic investments for signature projects via a 1:1 federal to private dollar match. Since 2015, NPS selected over 150 projects to leverage $25 million in Congressional appropriations with more than $45 million matching funds from partner organizations nationwide. This bill also establishes a Second Century Endowment at the NPF, which is expected to augment over time from gifts, devises, bequests, and federal funding provided to the Foundation. Other provisions will allow NPS to expand both its Volunteers in Parks and Public Lands Corps programs.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “We want to unleash private philanthropy to enhance our parks. Expanding opportunities for private donors will improve visitor experience and encourage the next century of Americans to enjoy some of our nation’s most beautiful and inspiring places.”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the bill will decrease direct spending by $52 million over the 5-year period and by $32 million over the 10-year period and increase discretionary spending by $35 million over the 5-year period and by $55 million over the 10-year period.
For questions or further information please contact John Wilson with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-1811.