Poor Marks Handed Congress For Votes On National Park Legislation

Fewer members of the U.S. House of Representatives received A grades from the National Parks Action Fund for their votes on issues important to the National Park System and National Park Service/Rebecca Latson file

Congress’s action on legislation favorable to the National Park System and the National Park Service showed a decrease in the number of politicians viewed as champions for the parks, according to grades handed out by the National Parks Action Fund.

The grades, based on House votes during the first session of the 118th Congress, showed a decline in the number House of Representatives members who received an “A,” an increase in House members who received an “F,” and counted 13 states where the entire congressional delegation received an “F.”

The grades were based on votes taken by the House on:

  • Protecting Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida from harmful oil and gas drilling.
  • Allowing excessive, noisy air tours in national parks.
  • Jeopardizing the survival of endangered species.
  • Undoing protections around Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. 
  • Preventing funding for National Park Service workforce development.
  • Weakening the future of conservation under the Antiquities Act.
  • Cutting funding for the National Park Service.

No grades were handed out for senators, since that chamber has not voted on any of those issues.

“America’s national parks have long served as common ground for Congress, even in times of serious political division and strife,” said  Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association and board chair of the National Parks Action Fund.  “Conservation unifies Americans in a way no other topic can. Time and again, we have seen members of Congress cross the aisle and forge unlikely bonds with their colleagues in the name of protecting our national parks. Our latest scorecard proves that kind of bipartisan spirit is certainly still possible, even in 2024.” 

In the recent past, bipartisan Congressional cooperation on public lands issues culminated in victories like the Great American Outdoors Act. This landmark legislation, passed in 2020 to address billions of dollars in deferred maintenance projects at national parks, has already significantly improved conditions at national parks. The National Park Service has used Great American Outdoors Act funds to address crumbling infrastructure at iconic national parks like Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountains, to name just a few successes. 

“But despite the significant bipartisan gains afforded to national parks over the years, we are witnessing some inconsistency on important park votes in this Congress. For instance, many in Congress consistently vote in support of national monuments under the Antiquities Act but miss the mark on annual park funding,” noted Pierno. “Disappointingly, this year’s scorecard shows a notable decline in bipartisanship, and a slight decrease in members of Congress who received an ‘A,’ score for voting to protect national parks.

“As national parks continue to face sizable threats ranging from record understaffing and underfunding to the looming specter of climate change, now is not the time to abandon these priceless places. This scorecard should serve as a wake-up call for Congress to put partisan differences aside and work together to protect our one-of-a-kind national parks for future generations. Voters who love experiencing our outdoors and preserving our heritage expect nothing less from their elected officials,” she added.

Since its founding in 2016, the National Parks Action Fund has tracked the most impactful national parks legislation in each Congress and assigned members A-F scores based on their votes. 

Fast facts from the National Parks Action Fund’s 2024 Congressional Scorecard: 

  • Less House members received an A — a 4 percent decline since 2022. 
  • More House Members received an F — a 6 percent increase since 2022. 
  • In eight states, the entire House delegation received an A score: Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Delaware, and Connecticut. 
  • In 13 states and territories, the entire House Delegation received an F score: West Virginia, Utah, South Dakota, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Iowa, Idaho, Guam, Arkansas, and Alabama. 

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