U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Angus King have introduced a bipartisan bill to rebuild America's National Parks.
The proposed bill would use up to $18 billion in revenue which comes from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for "National Park Restoration", according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"Infrastructure is an investment, not merely an expense. And every dollar we put in to rebuilding our parks, will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. Since the early days of my confirmation, I've been talking with members of the House and Senate about how we can use energy revenue to rebuild and revitalize our parks and communities," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said.
Zinke said not all visitors have the ability to hike with a 30- pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities so the bill wants to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers.
"This bill is the largest investment in National Parks in our nation's history. This is not a republican or democrat issue, this is an American issue, and I think that the bipartisan body of lawmakers who put this bill forward is proof," Zinke said.
Senator Alexander said the legislation will also help the Great Smoky Mountains National Park catch up.
“This legislation will help address the over $11 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks, including the $215 million backlog of projects in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," Alexander said.
Alexander hopes that addressing the backlog of projects will also create more jobs for Tennesseans and attract even more visitors.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service estimates that its maintenance and repair backlog exceeds $11.6 billion.
Interior Secretary Zinke visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Sen. Alexander in August for the National Park Service's 101st birthday.
In August, he said they were looking at prioritizing and delivering more money on the front line.