Obama asks Congress to mark National Park Service centennial

Obama asks Congress to mark National Park Service centennial
© Thinkstock

The Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass a bill recognizing the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service (NPS) next year. 

Obama will ask Congress to fund infrastructure improvements at NPS facilities and establish an endowment fund for future upgrades and projects at the parks. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill, which Obama will formally announce and send to Congress after he visits a national park in Alaska on Tuesday, would look to increase funding for an NPS volunteer program and expand eligibility for a fund that hires young workers. 

It would also strengthen education programs at parks and allow the NPS to provide new services for visitors, such as lodging and dining, according to the Interior Department.

The National Parks Service will mark its centennial next August, and administration officials say Congress should pass legislation expanding and improving the NPS to mark the occasion. 

“This proposal acknowledges the important place our national parks have in the hearts and minds of all Americans,” Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellNational parks pay the price for Trump's Independence Day spectacle Overnight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone MORE said in a statement. 

“This administration and this Congress have the unique opportunity to shape the second century of the National Park Service as they preserve the legacy of some of our nation’s greatest treasures for generations to come.”

A White House announcement about the bill said it would “ensure that our national parks, facilities, and educational programs are of the highest quality” as the NPS hits the 100-year mark next year. 

“If enacted, the ‘National Park Service Centennial Act’ would support these goals and establish, clarify, or expand a number of key authorities to enable NPS to better serve the American people,” the announcement said. 

“The act will also promote volunteerism and help connect the next generation to the outdoors.”

Obama is visiting Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday. He’ll take a boat tour of the park, according to the White House, after he hikes to a glacier in the area.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, said Tuesday that he would sponsor the bill in Congress. 

"We should pass this bill not just to honor the NPS itself, but to honor every man, woman and child who has visited and fallen in love with a national park — and the many others yet to make their first visit," he said in a statement.

The Interior Department also announced a program Tuesday that will provide free admission to national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife refuges for every American fourth-grader and his or her family. 

“We want to make sure that every American has the opportunity to develop a lifelong connection to our nation’s land, water and wildlife,” Jewell said. 

—This post was updated at 4:00 p.m.