Hurd on the Hill: Fighting for our Parks

‘It is a distinct honor to represent eight national parks and historic sites’

By U.S. Representative Will Hurd – TX23

There’s no better time to go outside than Springtime. Here in the 23rd District of Texas, there’s also no better time to find your park, and you have eight incredible options to choose from across South and West Texas. From the San Antonio Missions all the way to the Guadalupe Mountains out West, our national parks and historic sites offer immeasurable environmental, cultural and economic benefits across our communities. As we celebrate the National Parks Conservation Association’s 100th anniversary and National Park Week from April 20-28, it’s a reminder to each of us to join in the fight to preserve and maintain our natural treasures for future generations of park-goers to enjoy.

It is a distinct honor to represent eight national parks and historic sites, including Big Bend National Park, the San Antonio Missions, Amistad National Recreation Area, the Fort Davis National Historic Site, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail and El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail. That is also why it is a top priority of mine to do all that I can in Congress to fight for our parks.

This Congress, my colleagues and I have come together in a bipartisan manner to support our parks and historic sites by passing the Natural Resources Management Act, which brought together over 100 different initiatives by Republicans and Democrats to care for our natural treasures and make them more accessible. A few of these measures include providing 4th graders with free access to national parks and other public lands through the Every Kid Outdoors Act, increasing access to federal lands for hunting and fishing and permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has been vital for preserving state and national parks. Since LWCF was established, our local parks have received millions in funding, including over $3.4 million at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, $8.6 million at the San Antonio Missions, $750,000 at Fort Davis National Historic Site, $950,000 at the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, $589,000 to Big Bend and nearly $20,000 to Amistad.

I also helped introduced a bipartisan bill to reduce the massive backlog of deferred maintenance project across the National Parks System. This backlog includes over $12 billion in maintenance projects, including repairing roads, visitor facilities and other park structures, leaky plumbing and more. In fact, in 2017 alone, national parks in Texas faced over $167 million in these deferred projects. Over $100 million of this backlog was at Big Bend alone, with another $7 million at Amistad, $6.4 million at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, $2.8 million at Fort Davis National Historic Site and $6.9 million at the San Antonio Missions. The Restore our Parks and Public Lands Act helps fix our parks by distributing currently unassigned federal mineral revenues back into a restoration fund to address this backlog. The funds can be used for overdue repairs so that our parks can remain beautiful and accessible for future generations of park-goers to enjoy.

I take great pride in our National Parks and will continue to protect them in Congress. Our South and West Texas national parks and historic sites are treasures we must protect for years to come. With National Park Week upon us, I encourage you to experience these remarkable destinations for yourself.