A 40-year-old sewage system at the bottom of the Grand Canyon—built to protect the Colorado River from pollution—is in such disrepair that the national park this summer began limiting visitors to nearby campgrounds.

Leaks at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church National Historic Park, where Martin Luther King, Jr. served as pastor, have left crumbling plaster and stains on the ceiling. The primary electrical system at Fort Mason in Golden Gate National Recreation Area has been deemed unsafe.

From 50-year-old ranger housing in Yellowstone, to the decaying Arlington Memorial Bridge across Washington, D.C.’s Potomac River, to rundown trails in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, repair work in the country’s national parks and recreation areas has been delayed for decades as Congress avoided footing the multibillion-dollar maintenance bill.

But on Wednesday, lawmakers from both parties—bitterly divided over almost everything else—approved the largest infusion of cash since the 1950s for upkeep of the national park system.

Congress also agreed to pump billions of dollars into repair projects in federal forests, wildlife refuges, and grasslands. And lawmakers committed, for the first time, to set up a continuous stream of money to buy and conserve land across the country.

“I know I may be biased, but I think this is the most impactful legislation for parks and public lands in the United States in more than half a century,” says Marcia Argust, director of the Restore America’s Parks program at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “It’s a game-changer.”


The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives late Wednesday voted 310-107 to adopt the Great American Outdoors Act, just weeks after the Republican-led Senate approved a similar measure, 73-25. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly moved to undo environmental protections, had urged the House to pass this measure and is expected to sign it.

The act would, over five years, pump $6.65 billion into addressing the $11.9 billion backlog of maintenance projects across more than 400 national parks, monuments, recreation areas, and historic sites. Another $2.9 billion would go to repair projects on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Check out the full article from National Geographic here.