Utah delegation frustrated over ‘shockingly low’ funding for deferred maintenance of public lands, national parks

Zion National Park
Angels Landing, Zion National Park (Photo) Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

UTAH, April 22, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah’s two U.S. senators and four U.S. representatives on Thursday requested an explanation from federal officials as to why Utah was awarded a such a low percentage of available funding for federal land deferred maintenance when 67% of the state is federally owned.

Sen. Mike Lee, Sen Mitt Romney, Rep Chris Stewart, Rep. John Curtis, Rep. Burgess Owens and Rep. Blake Moore signed a joint letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

The full text of the delegation’s letter is below.

Dear Secretary Haaland,       

We write to express our frustration with the recent announcement of funding for public lands and national parks in Utah. The Department of Interior made an investment of $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance funding for critical projects nationwide, yet Utah, with 67 percent federal landownership, received just $7.3 million. Utah’s project funding award is shockingly low compared to the State’s nearly $81.5 million contribution in federal royalties. 

As you are aware from your recent visit, nearly two-thirds of Utah is public land; its five National Parks and eight National Monuments span more than 2.2 million acres, and its backlog is sizeable at $225 million. The deferred maintenance award hardly reflects the scope of land, need for funding, or contribution to the federal government. Investments in maintenance backlog are necessary across the country, but to put our award in perspective, just 9.25 percent of the Commonwealth of Virginia is public lands, yet it will receive $247.5 million – more than enough to cover our entire state’s backlog.

We request a response explaining the formula used to calculate each state’s award, and the extent to which percent of public lands contributed to the award amount. As the nation’s second highest public lands state by percentile, Utah’s contributions to the federal government and outdoor recreation must more seriously be considered in future deferred maintenance funding allocations. 

Thank you for consideration. We look forward to your prompt response.


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