Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure
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There is no greater American tradition than fireworks on the Fourth of July. This year, as I watched the fireworks over our nation’s capital, under the illumination of the rockets’ red glare, I could not fail to notice the many monuments that are in need of repair. Our monuments, battlefields, parks, and public lands are our nation’s greatest treasures, and now is the moment to invest in ensuring their future.

America’s National Park System is the envy of the world; it is a collection of 417 park units like Yosemite and Yellowstone, representing America’s best idea. Our parks tell the story of our nation, ranging from the origins of the American conservation ethic, to our sacred battlefields, to the Civil Rights Movement. Quite frankly, our American park system represents our American values.

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Last year, our parks had 330 million visitors, with more visitors expected this year. Unfortunately, our park system has been neglected and is in need of rebuilding. We are loving our parks to death. The backlog of critical maintenance and repairs in the National Park Service stands at $11.6 billion and until recently, addressing the backlog seemed to be out of our reach.

But nothing is truly out of reach for America. We are, after all, the nation that pioneered the West, won both World Wars, and put a man on the moon. Our ability to preserve the splendor and beauty of our National Park System should be a slam dunk.

A bipartisan bill that is now before the Senate would achieve this worthy goal. Thanks to the efforts of leaders like Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP senator wears shirt honoring Otto Warmbier at Korean DMZ On The Money: Conservatives rally behind Moore for Fed | White House interviewing other candidates | Trump, Dems spar on Tax Day | Budget watchdogs bemoan 'debt denialism' The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Ohio), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar Alexander Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Five things to know about the measles outbreak MORE (R-Tenn.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill Warner looking at bills to limit hate speech, have more data portability on social media MORE (D-Va.), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingAngus King: 'Mueller passed the obstruction question to the Congress and Barr intercepted the pass' Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' MORE (I-Maine), and many others, the bill has momentum as others join to show their commitment to our public lands. I commend every senator involved in this effort for recognizing that preserving our parks is not a Republican or Democrat issue – it is an American issue.

I would like to thank President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE for his leadership throughout the process. In the president’s 2019 budget request to Congress, he proposed the largest investment in public lands infrastructure in American history. The president is a builder, and his commitment to American infrastructure has provided the path to get us to this point.

The deteriorating state of many of the roads, bridges, trails, visitor centers, and restrooms across the National Park System should be unacceptable to every American. Americans love the outdoors – it is no surprise that recreation in the United States is an $887 billion industry (and growing). Every American deserves a park system that is “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” as the words above the Roosevelt Arch above Yellowstone National Park proclaim.

The president and I support the bill before Congress. In the spirit of July 4, fixing and repairing our National Park System will preserve a uniquely American institution for generations to come.

Zinke is secretary of the Department of Interior.