Rep Stewart working on bill to fund maintenance for public lands

Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – National parks across the country are in need of repair, and a Utah lawmaker is pushing a solution.

Representative Chris Stewart says royalties from natural resources should help maintain public lands, so he's working on a bill to make that happen.

Our national parks are a treasure, and they are drawing bigger and bigger crowds.

Along with that comes wear and tear.

"A lot of the trails have, I guess like pavement and they're cracking, falling apart, probably just from weather and not being maintained," said Zion National Park guest Phillip Gilbert.

Stewart says national parks are facing a maintenance crisis. He says they are backlogged to the tune of hundreds of millions.

"Utah is a great example. If you look at the increase of visitors to the parks, I mean the amount of money allocated just can't keep up with that. We need to find a better way for them to address this backlog," said Stewart (R) Utah.

Stewart says his solution is that better way.

"Take the revenue that comes from natural resources, and applying that to public lands and national parks. It's a very good fit," Stewart said.

Stewart's proposal would earmark a percentage of federal royalties from oil, gas, wind, solar and other natural resources for maintaining public lands.

"It would be hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Maybe more, maybe approaching a billion dollars."

Big money that Stewart says could keep our parks looking their best, and keep them affordable.

"A lot of the incentive to increase the fees to enter the park is, because we've got a problem on the maintenance side, and this will relieve that pressure by allowing another funding source," said Stewart.

He is teaming up with Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander for the bill. He says he's also been in contact with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the White House.

The bill is still being drafted. It should be finalized in a few weeks.

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