Rep. McSally, Sen. McCain, Introduce Bill to Preserve and Revive Public Lands
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Martha McSally and Senator John McCain today introduced bipartisan legislation to help facilitate restoration projects on public lands, such as Saguaro National Park. The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act will enable federal agencies, like the National Park Service (NPS), to partner with national service corps organizations in order to complete projects faster and more efficiently, saving taxpayer dollars.
“Arizona’s breathtaking scenic scopes are renown throughout the country and the world— but our state also has one of the largest backlogs in park maintenance projects,” said Congresswoman McSally (R-AZ). “This backlog is restricting access for Arizonans and tourists at our parks and public areas. This isn’t a problem that money alone can fix, we need to think innovatively and pragmatically to address this growing problem. My bipartisan bill leverages existing resources in a smarter way to get these projects moving. This would be a win for veterans, youth, local communities, and our national parks.”
“In Arizona and across the country, young people are growing increasingly interested in service programs focused on bettering our national parks and public lands,” said Senator McCain. “However, while more people each year are applying for service opportunities, they are being turned away – even though our federal agencies need their help to complete a growing backlog of critical projects. Our legislation would solve this problem by creating more opportunities for young people and returning veterans to serve their community while spending no additional taxpayer dollars.”
“There are few things more American than enjoying the outdoors,” said Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA), a co-lead of the legislation. “Unfortunately, there is a mounting backlog of National Parks Service projects that are impeding our ability to enjoy these vast open spaces. This bipartisan bill effectively joins service with stewardship, and in doing so, it will make our country a better place.”
There is $580.2 million in delayed or deferred restoration projects throughout Arizona, and National Parks in Congressional District 2 are hampered because of it. Maintenance projects requiring attention at Saguaro National Park amount to approximately $12.9 million, while Chiricahua National Monument in Cochise County faces roughly $10.3 million in needed restoration projects.
In 2013, President Obama signed a Memorandum of Understanding encouraging federal agencies like the National Park Service to partner with national service corps organizations to fill available positions on national service restoration projects. The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act codifies this program under law and expands it to allow additional federal agencies to use corps volunteers to complete projects. Specifically, this bill would provide service hours and support workforce development and vocational education programs for veterans, underprivileged youth, inner-city kids, and those looking for work who are involved in these conservation and service corps.
Enlisting corps to do priority work often has proved to be more cost-effective for federal agencies. A recent report showed that public-private partnerships saved the National Park Service more than $50,000 per project on average, with one project achieving savings of over $220,000.