Utah Rep. Chris Stewart is proposing that oil and gas royalties be allocated to the National Park Service. It’s his answer to funding existing as well as new parks, including his bid to create a sixth national park in Utah.
“We think that we can take a portion of revenues from oil and gas royalties and allocate that specifically to national park maintenance,” Stewart said. “It’s not just for the new national park. It’s, frankly, for all of our parks because we’ve got several hundred million dollars in backlogged maintenance and for improvements to our parks.”
The legislation Stewart introduced in the U.S. House on Wednesday would establish Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve. While no size or boundaries have been determined, it would sit inside new borders of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The boundaries there will be redrawn in response to a presidential proclamation this week to shrink the monument.
According to Stewart, he has support from the entire Utah Congressional delegation on creating the new national park, and that his counterparts in the Senate are working on similar legislation.
Taking money from natural resources, such as extractive industry payloads, and giving it to natural resources, such as the National Park Service, is something Stewart said he hopes both parties can get behind. And, since the national park would come with more protection and better infrastructure than a monument, he feels it’s a plan that benefits ranchers in the area as well as conservationists.
Stewart also said he knows tourism is a huge business in Utah. The bill proposes a management council to develop a comprehensive plan for recreation and traditional uses like hunting and grazing.
“We recognize there is great economic benefit from increasing and supporting the tourism industry,” Stewart said. “If you want to protect the ranchers in the area, that have felt like they’ve been ignored for a long time and it’s had real impacts on their families, the delegation realizes that this is a good idea and it’s a real step forward to try and bring a different group of people together.”
The bill is slated for markup next week and could reach the President sometime this winter.