Dedicated funding needed for maintenance backlog

Print Article

Jammer Jennifer Coulter puts the tarp back on top of red bus No. 92 after giving a tour last week from Lake McDonald Lodge. Coulter has been driving reds for three years now.

Montana’s national parks have never been more popular. The surge in park visitation has added millions to our state economy and helped create new employment opportunities for Montanans. However, more tourists visiting our parks have increased the wear and tear on infrastructure, and federal funding for maintenance projects has not kept up with the need, leading to a serious backlog of repairs.

Today, the deferred maintenance projects on national park properties in Montana alone tops $187 million. Nationally the backlog is estimated at $11.9 billion. The big-ticket items include infrastructure that is critical to the basic operation of the parks — roads, trails, bridges, water systems and historic buildings, among other categories.

It’s a problem if this deferred maintenance backlog is not addressed and the experience for visitors deteriorates. We could start to see a drop in visitation numbers. That would spell bad news for Montana’s economy, and especially for the dozens of national park gateway communities across our state.

But there is a solution on the horizon. Federal legislation in the House and Senate (the Restore Our Parks Act and Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, respectively) would address the problem by providing dedicated funding for National Park System deferred maintenance projects. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Montana, have sponsored this legislation and have been helping to shepherd it through Congress this year.

Significantly, both bills use existing revenue — no taxes will be raised. And in the long run, taking on this deferred maintenance problem now will save money as infrastructure projects become more expensive when they are pushed to future years.

As a bonus, addressing the entire backlog will support or create jobs in Montana. By one estimate, conducted by the Cadmus Research Group for The Pew Charitable Trusts, addressing deferred maintenance in national parks would create or support about 1,700 jobs in Montana.

The National Park System assets in Montana — which include Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Fork Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Big Hole National Battlefield, the Nez Perce National Historical Park, and Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, among others — are all treasures that deserve to be preserved. But for too long they’ve been neglected, and that wear and tear is starting to show.

It’s time for Congress to act. Daines and Gianforte deserve our gratitude for helping lead the charge on this important, bipartisan legislation. Already, nearly half of the members of the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate have co-sponsored the legislation. The Trump administration, too, has indicated support. You can help by urging other members of Congress to sign on, as well.

Sen. Mike Cuffee, R-Eureka

Print Article

Read More Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor June 24

June 24, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Bear news Does it bother anyone about the direction of our society when every bear death in the sate of Montana becomes a front-page newspaper article and the lead story in local television news, wh...

Comments

Read More

Simple fixes to bridge the digital divide

June 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Like many areas across rural America, whether it is a student struggling to gain access to online educational resources or a business struggling to make their products or services available online,...

Comments

Read More

Wildlife data must be protected

June 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Montana has for decades been at the forefront of wildlife conservation among states in the West. We have the best hunting and angling in the country, and Montana has long set the standard in huntin...

Comments

Read More

Close the southern border

June 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Trump should close down the southern border until that crisis is completely under control. Otherwise, we may go into an economic recession or even a civil war with those illegal immigrants or possi...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2019 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X