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Sec. of Interior supports bill to fund national parks repairs

SPRINGDALE — Most people visit Zion National Park for its beauty, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is visiting the park for a completely different reason.  He’s looking for spots that need to be upgraded or repaired.

People visiting the park today say Zion lives up to its name.  Vince Boling from Sonoma County, California, decided to make a trip with his family, saying that the scenery has been amazing, but he couldn’t help but notice a huge difference in quality between one campsite area and another. He noted one had manicured areas for tents, upgraded bathrooms and seemed much safer for his one-year-old daughter, while the other had drainage ditches his daughter could have fallen into.

(One reporter actually slipped into this ditch while the secretary was speaking with campers)

“Aren’t they both government run?  Why does one seem so dilapidated?” he asks.

(A comparison between an upgraded bathroom [top] compared to an older one.)

Congressman Rob Bishop says there are more than just broken restrooms and questionable roads.  In all, he says $65 million worth of maintenance needs to happen within Zion, also saying that if you tally up all the upgrades that need to happen within national parks in Utah, it would add up to $260 million.

“There are some places where the amenities really are in such bad shape that it’s almost impossible to go there,” he says.

Bishop also says, “If the roads are becoming impassable, or you have areas in which at night you can’t see what’s going on and you end up off the road in a ditch, those things are untenable.  A lot of the problems we have in our parks and monuments are road construction.”

The congressman is pushing H.R. 6510, which would take excess revenue generated by energy development on federal land and apply it to this backlog of problems in all national parks, wildlife refuges and land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Bishop says It would bring in up to $1.3 billion every year for five years.

“If the revenue is not there, then you don’t spend it, but, if the revenue is there, then you might as well spend it here in the public parks,” says Bishop.

“If you’re going to make wealth and energy from public lands, you, too, should have an obligation to support protect, defend and build our public lands for generations to come,” says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

If the bill is passed, who gets paid first?  Zinke says they have a list of criteria they need to take care of, first.

“Public safety, public health and environmental compliance are things we send to the top,” he says.

So far, more than 170 lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.