An Interior Department priority list for tackling deferred maintenance projects in the National Park System and other public lands with funds generated through the Great American Outdoors Act fails to describe the projects in detail, according to the National Parks Traveler.
The list obtained by National Parks Traveler cites cumulative dollar amounts to be spent in various categories, such as “Buildings and Structures,” “Recreational Assets,” and “Transportation,” but does not clearly detail which projects Interior is recommending for funding. Rather, it simply lists locations in the National Park System, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Bureau of Indian Education, and notes whether one or more projects in each location are to be tackled.
For example, within the Buildings and Structures category, the list (attached below) indicates there are three projects in Yellowstone National Park to be addressed, but it doesn’t provide any details on them. Similarly, Yosemite National Park is mentioned for one Transportation project, but the document does not explain what that project is.
National Park Service staff in the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters referred Traveler to Interior, where multiple requests for details on the projects went unanswered.
“They should provide a description, it wouldn’t be that hard. It just seems to me to be another example of the lack of transparency,” Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, said Wednesday (Nov. 4). “Why not provide more detail for the American public to see it?”
Under the legislation, which President Trump signed into law in early August, Interior was ordered to provide a project priority list to Congress by Nov. 2. Projects on the list also were to be “ready to be implemented.”
The legislation also directs the president to provide “a detailed description of each project” with his/her annual budget proposal. Such descriptions for park projects shouldn’t be hard to compile, said Francis, as the Park Service already has details on backlogged maintenance projects that need to be addressed.
According to the Interior list, there are 51 Park Service projects, 99 for the BLM, 10 for BIE, and nine for FWS. Failure of the list to break out dollar amounts for each of those projects concerns Francis. The GAOA legislation called for $1.5 billion a year to be spent on maintenance projects for five consecutive years, and the “Park Service is supposed to get 70% of that. How do we know if they’re giving the Park Service 70% of that?” wondered Francis.
The Coalition official said it has come to his attention that Interior decided which projects to identify for funding based on “how many visitors would benefit.”
“They didn’t mention anything about resource protection as one of the criteria. It was all about visitation,” said Francis.
The Interior list calls for $410.3 million to be spent on Buildings and Structures, $62.2 million on Demolition projects, $62.8 million on Recreational Assets, $707.4 million on Transportation needs, $185.5 million on Water & Utilities,” and $171.8 million on Program Support/Project Delivery.