McCollum Statement on National Park Service Centennial Act
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the National Park Service Centennial Act. This year, our nation is celebrating the first one hundred years of what filmmaker Ken Burns so accurately labelled “America’s best idea”. With this legislation, we are helping to strengthen the National Park Service for its second century of serving visitors and conserving our national treasures.
America’s National Parks are the best example of our commitment to preserve and celebrate the natural wonder and cultural heritage of the United States. It is our responsibility to ensure that future generations can have the same chance our families do to experience our national landscapes and history.
The Centennial Act will support that goal by building upon the public-private partnerships created by the extremely successful National Park Service’s Centennial Challenge. Federal investments of $25 million over the past two years have been more than doubled by private investments. These public-private collaborations provide an opportunity to reinvest in our parks and to re-engage with the hundreds of millions of visitors who come to our parks every year. In Minnesota’s 4th District, the Centennial Challenge supported a vibrant new visitor center in the heart of St. Paul to connect families to an urban National Park: the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.
In addition, the Centennial Act establishes an endowment for the National Park Service. The gifts and donations that go into the endowment will form a base of funding to address future park projects and needs. This endowment fund will protect ancient landscapes and tell the ever evolving story of the American people and our nation. It will help to preserve the unique ecosystem within our oldest parks, like Yellowstone and Yosemite. It will demonstrate the diversity of the American dream at the newly created Stonewall and Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monuments.
For a century, the National Park Service has conserved our natural treasures, preserved our cultural heritage, offered unparalleled opportunities for recreation, and taught young and old alike about the history of our land and our people. This is an impressive legacy, and it is one we must build upon to keep our national parks a part of our national fabric for generations to come.
The National Park Service Centennial Act is an important step forward to protecting that legacy, and I urge all my colleagues to support it.