Interior Secretary Zinke outlines future of National Park Service while visiting BRP

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke came to the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina on August 25, 2017 to celebrate the 101st birthday of the National Park Service and also lay out the department’s future.

Zinke said the country’s national parks are facing an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog that he wants to close in five years.

This comes on the heels of a proposed budget from President Donald Trump that would cut funds to the department. “Everyone knows you propose a budget, and it’s really Congress that goes to work. But I think we need a discussion on a budget of where we are as a country,” Zinke said. He described the path forward which he said included more money than was initially proposed.

He also said there wouldn’t be any cuts to staffing, instead, restructuring the way the National Parks Service operates. He explained that means moving upper and middle management staffers back to the fields and giving more authority to those at the local level. “You don’t need someone on a simple decision to oversee it seven different layers to get approval,” Zinke said.

In addition to closing the backlog, Zinke said the way people use the park system is changing and it needs to have better infrastructure to keep up with how people use it. He also discussed leveraging public-private partnerships like businesses along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Zinke also said he has authorized payment of an additional $4 million owed to Swain County to pay for the so-called “Road to Nowhere.”



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