Policy Blog: Centennial Act Passage Among One of the Last Actions as the 114th Congress Closes Out

By Jessica Wahl December 12, 2016

The outdoor community woke up Saturday morning to an unlikely surprise—earlier that morning at 6:39, the Senate passed the National Park Service (NPS) Centennial Act after an all-night voting session to keep the government funded and approve end-of-the-year priorities.

The National Park Service Centennial Act, introduced by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), passed the house in a bipartisan voice vote last week but was held up in the Senate due to the energy package falling apart and continuing resolution hiccups. The breakthrough happened when Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), with the help of Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Cantwell (D-WA), brought the bill to the Senate floor for a last-minute vote.

Some of the key provisions that will benefit recreation next year when the NPS Centennial Act is enacted:

  • Creates tens of millions of dollars of additional revenue for the parks that can help with the $12 billion in maintenance backlogs and help engage youth.
    • The revenue is generated from an increase in the Senior Pass, which changed from $10 for a lifetime pass for those over 62 to $20 for an annual or $80 for a lifetime pass.
    • Non-seniors will continue to pay $80 per year for the annual pass or pay the various fees at park entrances ranging from $4 to $30.
  • Establishes a Second Century Endowment for the National Park Service that can fund priority projects in years to come.
  • Helps the Public Land Service Corps expand on the great work they do by raising the limit for participation from 25 to 30 years old and allowing two years (up from 120 days) of competitive hiring status in the land management agencies to former corps members.
  • Reauthorizes the Historic Preservation Fund for the parks through 2023.
  • Allows for more money to go toward assisting volunteers in parks.

The passage of the NPS Centennial Act in Congress is a culmination of years of work by the National Park Service, Congressman Bishop and the Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, Senator Rob Portman who hot-lined the bill this weekend and many of OIA’s great partners and members like National Park Foundation, National Park Conservation Association, American Recreation Coalition and many more. REI and Outdoor Research were among the OIA members on the phone with Senate staff pushing the bill through the night Friday.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by the president before the end of the year, closing out the 100th anniversary of our national parks with a win for all Americans.