Scott Tipton: Take care of what we have

At some point in the next year, Congress will consider legislation to address the needs of America’s infrastructure. In the Natural Resources Committee, we will be considering the ways this infrastructure bill could help federal land management agencies restore access to public lands and support sound management practices.

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Courtesy photo

Scott Tipton

I recently had the opportunity to chair an oversight hearing of the Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee focused on innovative infrastructure ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service. The Forest Service has a maintenance backlog of about $6 billion, and the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog is almost $12 billion.

With our national debt now more than $20 trillion, we will not be able to rely solely on additional appropriations to fill the backlogs or resolve other problems both the Forest Service and National Park Service face.

The first step in tackling the massive maintenance backlog will be for land management agencies to put more resources toward taking care of what they already own instead of pushing for more land acquisitions. During the past 10 years, the footprint of the National Park Service has continued to grow, while maintenance needs in existing parks have been delayed.

During the Natural Resources Committee hearing, I had a chance to ask Reed Watson, executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center, about the importance of allowing National Park and Forest managers to retain the user fees they collect in order to address infrastructure needs, as well as set their own entrance fee schedules.

While giving park managers more flexibility to put user fees toward maintenance projects could be part of the solution, Congress and the Park Service will undoubtedly have to spend several years dedicating more resources to maintaining and restoring existing park facilities rather than expanding the system.

It will also be critical for Congress to work with land management agencies and local stakeholders to maximize taxpayer dollars and create efficiency within federal processes.

During the hearing, I also asked Commissioner Gordon Cruickshank, from Valley County, Idaho, about the way his county has worked with the Forest Service to maximize taxpayer dollars on infrastructure projects.

The Forest Service had approached Valley County with $350,000 to replace two bridges. The county entered an agreement to replace the two bridges utilizing Forest Service design and engineering and the county’s bidding process and county road crews.

Cruickshank said that, by working together, Valley County and the Forest Service were able to replace both bridges in the infrastructure plan and three additional bridges on the Payette National Forest. Each of the five bridge projects occurred in salmon and steelhead habitat areas, and the collaboration between the local and federal government led to improved infrastructure and the preservation of sensitive habitat.

Collaboration and innovative partnerships will play an important role in making taxpayer dollars go farther for federal land management agencies, but we also need to be serious about maintaining and restoring the infrastructure we already have.

I think that many people would be surprised to hear that some of our national treasures, such as Yellowstone National Park, have hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. In order to keep these lands open and accessible to the public, we need to take care of them.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton represents Colorado’s 3rd District. He serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Natural Resources and is vice-chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Tipton is executive vice chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus and co-chairman of the Congressional Small Business Caucus.

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(Eric J. Bowman) Eric_J_Bowman says...

"It will also be critical for Congress to work with land management agencies and local stakeholders to maximize taxpayer dollars and create efficiency within federal processes."

Whatever. Like this maintenance backlog is something new you've just now discovered. Meh.

"The Forest Service had approached Valley County with $350,000 to replace two bridges. The county entered an agreement to replace the two bridges utilizing Forest Service design and engineering and the county’s bidding process and county road crews."

You've been in Congress how long, now? And the best you can do for your constituents is sing the praises of **IDAHO** when it comes to infrastructure repairs? Like nobody around here could point to umpteen different bridges that need replacement within 20 miles of our homes, regardless of who does the engineering... What have you done for COLORADO lately, other than say how nice it sounds for Idaho to have a coupla bridges replaced?

C'mon, man, tell me what you've done to help COLORADO's failing infrastructure instead of singing the praises about how nice it sounds that OTHER STATES have the sort of representation to actually get this done instead of just TALKING about it...

Posted 20 March 2017, 11:03 p.m. Suggest removal

(Eric J. Bowman) Eric_J_Bowman says...

That's how you'd potentially get my vote -- results to point to for my state not some other state. So would be standing up against your party's hellbent determination to undo all protections for, you know, like clean air & water. Your entire op-ed comes across as so much greenwashing, it makes me green as in *sick*.

"I recently had the opportunity to chair an oversight hearing of the Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee focused on innovative infrastructure ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service."

What National Park and Forest Service? You know better than I, that Trump's got these outfits in his crosshairs to do away with... so, what **I** want to hear from my state representatives, is some pushback against their imminent obliteration, instead of some politician blathering about how nice it would be to actually get something done if somehow these bureaucracies even still exist in a year. Way to play it safe, Mr. Tipton, but I see right through you.

Take a stand on something that matters NOW, instead of blowing smoke about how nice it MIGHT be to do something about our failing infrastructure at some unspecified time in the future, once you're out of office, and those bureaucracies you aren't doing anything to save can't possibly build any new bridges in ANY state, let alone ours, because they were done away with in the face of your APATHY.

Posted 20 March 2017, 11:09 p.m. Suggest removal

(Fred Duckels) fredduckels says...

Federal agencies usually end up converting most of their funds to personnel over time. Maintenance is delayed and then they cry poverty.

Posted 21 March 2017, 10:22 a.m. Suggest removal

(Chris Hadlock) chadlock says...

Uh Fred, is not most maintenance performed by personnel?

Posted 21 March 2017, 6:41 p.m. Suggest removal

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