Zion visit to draw attention to $12B national park backlog

Zion visit to draw attention to $12B national park backlog

ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) —

The Latest on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s visit to Utah (all times local):

5:10 p.m.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke dismissed the notion that he’s giving away public lands to oil and gas during a visit to at Zion National Park where he drew attention to the maintenance backlog at national parks.

The Spectrum newspaper in St. George reports that Zinke said “nothing could be further from the truth” when asked about his department letting oil and gas take over public lands.

Zinke spoke in favor of a bill in Congress that would establish a fund to reduce the backlog using money the government gets from energy development. The bipartisan bill has dozens of co-sponsors.

The National Park Service estimates its total bill for overdue projects across the country at nearly $12 billion.

Conservation groups say they appreciate the effort to address the crumbling national parks but say Zinke should first ensure funding doesn’t expire for the a 54-year-old federal program that takes earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to protect U.S. lands.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be at Zion National Park to draw attention to a maintenance backlog at national parks.

The Southern Utah park known for striking red-rock vistas estimates its backlog at $65 million.

Also on hand Monday to call for Congressional action on the problem will be Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the powerful House National Resources Committee, and his fellow GOP Congressmen Chris Stewart and John Curtis.

The National Park Service estimates its total bill for overdue projects across the country at nearly $12 billion.

A bill in Congress would establish a fund to reduce the backlog using money the government gets from energy development. The bipartisan bill has dozens of co-sponsors.