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Zinke pushing bill to support park infrastructure improvements with energy sales

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A new federal bill supported by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke aims to take money earned from energy sales and improve national parks in need.

National parks currently have a $11.6 billion backlog of maintenance needs.

"Half of that money is needed just to repair and maintain roads in the parks," Zinke said.

This 2019 budget proposal would use energy sales from drilling and other production on federal lands to fund infrastructure projects.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced the bipartisan bill today.

Along with repairing roads, the bill, called the National Park Restoration Act would also restore buildings, campgrounds, trails and water systems.

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana joined a  group of eight other senators and two representatives to work on the bill.

Zinke, a former Montana congressman, said the bill will benefit current and future generations.

"There isn't anyone I've ever met that doesn't love our parks. But our parks are challenged. They're being loved to death. Americans deserve to have a park system that's well-funded, that's well-operated, and the visitor experience of our parks should remain sacred," he said.

Daines said this bill is a common-sense step forward, saying, "These critical economic drivers must be maintained and protected so that our outdoor economy can continue to grow and our parks remain accessible to all Montanans."

In fiscal year 2017, the national park service - received only $2.9 million in appropriations.

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