Outdoor World

Ryan Zinke Said SOTU Would Include ‘Big News’ On National Parks. It Never Came.

WASHINGTON — Ahead of Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said to expect “big news” from President Donald Trump on infrastructure and national park.

Stand by in the State of the Union: We’re going to rebuild our parks. Here it comes, ” Zinke reportedly said last week on “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM.

Instead, Trump devoted the American public more vague schemes about rebuilding the nation’s “crumbling” roads, bridges and railways. Those hoping for an announcement specific to national park will have to wait, as the president did not mention them.

To the disgust of Democrats and conservationists, Trump’s 2018 budget petition called for slashing the National Park Service’s funding by nearly 13 percentage. Then in October, the concerned authorities turned around and proposed drastically hiking entrance fees at 17 of America’s most well known national park, including Yellowstone, Yosemite and Glacier. The move, NPS told, “would generate badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks.”

“We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today, ” Zinke mentioned at the time. “Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.”

Zinke — whose chore it is to manage about 500 million acres of federal land, including the 59 national park — has repeatedly swore relating to the park system’s calculated $12 billion upkeep backlog. NPS is forecast that the proposed fee hikes would generate $70 million in additional revenue per year, or about 0.6 percent of the backlog.

In April, Trump donated $ 78,333.32, a portion of his salary, to NPS, which Zinke mentioned at the time would go toward improving maintenance of the nation’s battlefields.

In his 80 minute address — the third-longest State of the Union in history — Trump acquired no time for national parks. Instead, he spoke generally about rebuilding the commonwealth as a whole.

“I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve, ” he said. Trump added that he will push Congress to approve a $1.5 trillion scheme.

“We will construct gleaming new streets, bridges, highways, railways and waterways in communities across our land, ” Trump told. “And we will do it with American heart, American hands and American grit.”

Sen. Steve Daines( R-Mont .), chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, told E& E News not to read into what was absent from Trump’s comments on infrastructure.

“While he didn’t specifically call out national parks tonight, I can tell you for certain, because we’re working with the White House and Secretary Zinke, it’s one of his highest priorities, ” Daines said.

Critics view the White House infrastructure plans as security threats to America’s beloved parks and other public lands. To simplify and fast-track his rebuilding efforts, Trump is expected to gut environmental protections. A leaked draft obtained by The Washington Post indicates the authorities will scale back environmental requirements in order to make it easier to construct pipes, streets and bridges.

National parks do not exist in a vacuum, ” Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement following Trump’s speech Tuesday. “Caring for our parks entails not only fixing their roads and buildings, but also protecting their air, sea, wildlife and grounds. And yet, reports on the infrastructure proposal indicate the concerned authorities intends to raze bedrock conservation laws in the name of rebuilding.”

During the brief government shutdown earlier this month, the Trump administration opted to keep many national parks, tombstones and memorials open — albeit without rangers, restrooms and other visitor services. It was a decision that Jon Jarvis, the former NPS director, called “incredibly moronic, ” as it thrown guests and natural and cultural resources at risk.

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