WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior announced last Friday that it will spend $1.6 billion in 2021 to address critical deferred maintenance projects, improve transportation and recreation infrastructure in national parks, national wildlife refuges, and at Bureau of Indian Education schools. 

“This unprecedented investment will support an estimated 18,851 jobs and contribute $2 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2021,” the department said in an announcement. 

The funding was made possible by the newly created National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund established in 2020 by the Great American Outdoors Act.

The Great American Outdoors Act provides up to $1.6 billion a year for five years to help address a multi-billion-dollar deferred maintenance backlog at national parks, on other public lands, and at tribal schools.

“President Biden has made clear that creating new jobs and stimulating our economy is a top priority of this Administration. Through the Great American Outdoors Act, we are investing in the American people, and in the future of our public lands and sacred spaces,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in a statement. “We must address the long-delayed maintenance needs of the nation’s aging buildings and infrastructure. Importantly, this funding also honors our commitment to Tribal communities by investing in Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools for current and future generations.”

The 165 deferred maintenance projects planned by the Department of the Interior using Fiscal Year 2021 funding will improve recreation facilities, visitor centers, dams, water and utility infrastructure, schools and other historic structures. Other projects aim to increase public access by restoring and repairing roads, trails, bridges, and parking areas. Projects will take place in areas managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education.

The Department of the Interior’s first major 2021 Great American Outdoors Act investment of $3 million by the National Park Service will complete restoration of the exterior of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. Among other restoration work, the project uses specialized lasers to remove black biofilm (a microbial colony of algae, fungi and bacteria) to clean the Memorial and restore its appearance.

In addition to funding via the Legacy Restoration Fund annually through fiscal year 2025, which will provide up to $8.1 billion over the next five years, the Great American Outdoors Act also provides for $900 million per year into perpetuity to be invested from Land and Water Conservation Fund for new conversation and recreation opportunities.

A list of Interior’s FY21 deferred maintenance projects is available on the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) page.

Celebrating 10 years of Native News...

We launched Native News Online back in February 2011 with the belief that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope it inspires you to celebrate our first decade with a gift of $10 or more to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.