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Conservation groups: National park budgets not addressed in newest Grow America proposal

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - On March 30 the Obama administration released its second Grow America proposal addressing how much funding will be allocated to transportation projects and roadway maintenance around the U.S., including national park roads and infrastructure.

The recent proposal did not guarantee any future funding will be allocated to repair roadways and other infrastructure in national parks.

The announcement came after the National Park Service (NPS) released its 2014 fiscal year deferred maintenance statistics on March 23. NPS reported a total of $11.49 billion in deferred maintenance projects nationwide.

According to the National Park Service, deferred maintenance encompasses any necessary work on roads, bridges, visitor centers, trails and campgrounds that have not been attended to for over a year.

Transportation projects account for almost $6 billion of that total.

NPS is guaranteed a minimum of $240 million annually from the Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP), according to the Park Service.

The Grow America proposal could eliminate the guarantee of funding for the NPS, forcing the Department of Interior's land managing agencies to compete for funding for transportation projects.

The FLTP funds are set to expire in May 2015.

President Barrack Obama's proposal for Grow America is currently under consideration in Congress and includes $150 million in new funding for nationally significant projects. The money would be awarded competitively for major transportation projects on federal and tribal lands.

"President Obama's proposal for these major projects could address some of the National Park Service's large, and critical, deferred transportation projects," said NPS director Jon Jarvis. "Completing those projects would pave the way for many of the hundreds of millions of visitors that come to national parks each year."

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a national historical, cultural and natural preservation organization, said Grow America fails the NPS by not guaranteeing funding for backlogged repairs and maintenances.

"Grow America fails our national parks by eliminating historically guaranteed funding levels for park transportation projects and ignoring $11.49 billion in backlogged transportation and maintenance needs that jeopardize public safety," said Laura Loomis, NPCA deputy vice president of Government Affairs. "It's baffling that as our National Park System prepares for its centennial with an expected increase in visitors, including young children and their families, our parks remain rife with dangerous roads and deteriorating bridges. The only thing that this drastic and unwarranted elimination of guaranteed funding will do is ensure the maintenance backlog continues to grow as our parks enter their second century."

According to NPCA, Grow America is not binding, nor is it law, but is what the Obama administration would like a member of Congress to introduce as legislation. The legislation could then be used as a reauthorization bill for federal highway and transit programs.

The National Park Service's budget request for non-transportation assets includes an increase of $242.8 million across operations and construction accounts, in combination with a mandatory proposal to provide $300 million annually over three years, to restore highest priority non-transportation assets to good condition over 10 years and to maintain that infrastructure in good condition.

The Obama administration released the original Grow America plan on April 29, 2014.

According to the Grow America website, the Grow America Act is 'a six-year transportation reauthorization proposal transmitted to Congress by the (Obama) administration that provides increased and stable funding for our nation's highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems.'

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