Quietly, Trump is building what The Washington Times is calling a “unique conservation legacy” by concentrating on restoring and rehabilitating the country’s “majestic yet long-neglected national parks.”
Last week, the Department of the Interior, which manages our national parks, announced $256 million in funding to shore up infrastructure at 22 sites including the Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone as a down-payment on some $11.6 billion in maintenance that is backlogged.
POTUS Trump is a native New Yorker and does not have a public reputation for being at one with nature. He’s made a name for himself as a developer of real estate, much to the chagrin of environmentalists, no doubt.
But he has prioritized funding improvements to our crumbling national parks, both as part of his desire to shore up all U.S. infrastructure and because he prefers his surroundings to be of higher quality.
“The President is a builder, he loves to build and he loves our National Parks, so it is a natural fit that the Administration is dedicating so much attention to rebuilding our aging parks infrastructure,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a written statement, according to the Times.
The paper noted further:
Projects covered by the funding include overhauling the visitor center at Mount Rushmore, rehabilitating wastewater systems at Yellowstone and the Great Smoky Mountains national parks, and repairing flood damage to the Scotty’s Castle visitor center in Death Valley National Park.
In addition, $18.2 million has been earmarked for repairs and upgrades to the Arlington Memorial Bridge on the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the nation’s capital, while $21.4 million has been budgeted to help restore the Thomas Jefferson Memorial roof and portico at the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Zinke said that there are additional projects in the planning stages that will make the features more accessible to visitors, making the experience much more enjoyable for everyone.
“It’s another step toward prioritizing infrastructure because it is an investment that bolsters local economies and gateway communities,” he said. “And it is another step in prioritizing access for all Americans to our public lands.”
Despite Trump’s commitment, the Left has found something to complain about.
Former Obama administration official Matt Lee-Ashley, now with the liberal Center for American Progress, actually said that Trump is focusing ‘too much’ on our national parks.
“The Trump administration seems solely focused on the national parks at the expense of investments in the management of other public lands that Americans also use frequently, like national forests,” he told the Times in an email. (Related: Trump renews pledge to remove harmful, business-killing regulations — on Earth Day)
Never mind that all public lands need repairs, upgrades, and other maintenance, so POTUS Trump really could start anywhere. That he’s chosen to first fund improvements to monuments and other tourist-heavy sites in and around Washington should not form one’s opinion as to his overall level of commitment.
That said, it’s not as if progressives’ favorite Leftist, Barack Obama, made a similar commitment to federal lands. Since 2010, the Times noted, the National Park Service has noted an $11-$12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance needed throughout the system, despite the fact that the number of visitors to the 417 federal properties climbed by 12 percent over the past decade to 330 million.
But, noted department spokesman Jeremy Barnum, with a budget of just $3 billion a year, the National Park Service can’t afford to do much maintenance.
Zinke has coalesced around a solution to chronic under-funding, however. He backs a bipartisan bill to raise $18 billion for a national park restoration fund that would come from energy production on federal lands and waters.
But since it involves the production of energy — and jobs, and revenue — no doubt the Left will hate that idea too.
Read more about federal environmentalism at Environ.news.
J.D. Heyes is also editor-in-chief of The National Sentinel.