1 of 4
National Park Service
Several trails at Zion National Park remain closed while workers continue to repair or reroute those that were damaged, including Angel's Landing, during an "intense thunderstorm" in July, according to park officials. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will tour Utah’s iconic park on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, and get a close-up look at some of the $65 million in backlogged maintenance needs.

SALT LAKE CITY — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will tour Utah’s iconic Zion National Park on Monday and get a close-up look at some of the $65 million in backlogged maintenance needs.

Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press
FILE - U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signs a proclamation Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss.

His visit includes a roundtable discussion with Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who is sponsoring a bipartisan measure to fund park maintenance using some of the royalties from energy development on public lands.

“Money that is generated on public lands should be used to maintain public lands,” Bishop said.

The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, endorsed last week in the House Committee on Natural Resources that Bishop chairs, enjoys broad bipartisan support with 169 co-sponsors.

The bill is co-led by the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.

The National Park System is reeling under a staggering $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance needs. In Utah, national parks and monuments’ maintenance needs are $266 million, with roads, bridges and restroom facilities in need of repair or replacement.

Aaron Thorup, National Park Service
Maintenance backlog in Utah

“It is very easy to create a park and put land in the government state, but another thing to come up with a way to actually maintain it,” Bishop said.

The legislation aims to take the excess revenue generated from all forms of energy development that is not already allocated to other programs.

Bishop said the annual allocation would be capped at $1.3 billion over a five-year period, satisfying concerns by Democrats that the measure will not incentivize energy development.

“It won’t solve every issue right away, but we will have some money coming in at a steady pace,” he said.

Bishop estimates if the program had been in place this year, $6 billion could have been directed to take care of maintenance needs at the nation’s parks and monuments.

Read more: Rep. Bishop touts plan to use energy development to fund park maintenance

The money also will help fund needed maintenance throughout the nation’s wildlife refuges and address backlogs within the Bureau of Land Management, he added.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE - Rep. Rob Bishop Union High choir as he meets in a field hearing at Union High School in Roosevelt on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018.

Those excess royalties would be harnessed from both onshore and offshore energy development of fossil fuels, as well as renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal.

As it stands now, excess money is deposited into the general fund for other appropriations, Bishop said.

Deseret News editorial: Time to fix that 80-year-old national park toilet

Multiple groups have come out in favor of the proposal, including the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the America Outdoors Association and the RV Industry Association.

11 comments on this story

Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the RV group, said the $50 billion RV industry is growing at record levels, but overnight stays at National Park Service campgrounds are decreasing dramatically.

Those visits were at 4.5 million in the 1980s and have dwindled to 2.5 million in 2017, he said.

More on Zion: You'd be shocked how often lightning strikes in Zion National Park. Here's how to stay safe during your visit

Bishop said Monday's roundtable discussion on the bill, which includes park officials and community representatives, will occur at the park itself and also involve a tour of Utah’s most-visited national park.

Reps. John Curtis and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, will also be there.

Tom Stromme, The Bismarck Tribune
FILE - Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, left, speaks at Peaceful Valley Ranch in Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 while touring the area with park superintendent Wendy Ross, center, and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, right.