To the editor: Earlier this week in an op-ed in the News-Miner (Nov. 24), Interior Secretary David Bernhardt called for passage of the Restore Our Parks Act to increase funding to take care of the massive infrastructure repair backlog in our national parks. The National Parks Conservation Association agrees, and Alaskans should too. Alaska’s national parks are the crown jewels of the nation’s park system, and they are also an enormous economic driver for the economies of Fairbanks and the state. Last year, over 2.9 million people visited national parks in Alaska, and they spent over $1.4 billion, generating over $2 billion in economic activity that supported Alaska restaurants, hotels, guiding companies, charter operators, merchandisers, and so much more.
After decades of underfunding, the Park Service has an infrastructure repair backlog estimated at nearly $12 billion, including crucial repairs to aging historical structures and thousands of miles of roads and trails, bridges, tunnels, sewers, drainage, and other vital infrastructure. In Alaska, that backlog is over $100 million, with Denali facing over $50 million in infrastructure needs. Those needed repairs include work on the Denali Park Road as well as repairs to buildings central to the tourist experience like the historic dog kennels. In Northwest Alaska, work is needed on emergency shelter cabins for hunters and community residents. In Glacier Bay, the lodge is in desperate need of repairs and upgrades.
We owe our thanks to all of Alaska’s congressional delegation for their support of the Restore Our Parks Act. We commend Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, for moving the bill through committee and for voicing strong support for it. We look forward to working with her to move the bill forward to become law in this Congress.
Alaska regional director
National Parks Conservation Association