Assistant Secretary Estenoz Highlights President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda in Tennessee

Last edited 08/25/2023

Date: Friday, August 25, 2023

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — As the National Park Service (NPS) celebrates its 107th birthday, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz traveled to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee today to highlight investments from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). During her visit, Assistant Secretary Estenoz also underscored the role of America’s national parks as significant drivers of national and local economies and job sustainability. These historic investments are enabling the Department of the Interior to deploy unprecedented funding to address overdue maintenance and repairs and meet critical ecosystem resilience, restoration and environmental planning needs.

Assistant Secretary Estenoz kicked off her visit with a tour of the Foothills Parkway West, the site of a recently completed GAOA-funded project. The park received $31 million in funding from the GAOA to rehabilitate 17 miles of the scenic roadway used by more than 700,000 visitors annually. This project reduced more than $25 million in deferred maintenance associated with the Parkway, supported 400 jobs and is helping contribute $85.5 million to the nation’s economy.

The GAOA established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF), a bipartisan investment that improves visitor experiences, bolsters climate resilience and invests in the economy by creating good-paying jobs in recreation areas, national parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools. GAOA’s LRF funding sunsets after fiscal year 2025 and would need to be reauthorized by Congress to continue the efforts underway to address significant infrastructure needs across public lands. This month, Department leaders are traveling throughout the nation to highlight how these investments are addressing long-deferred maintenance projects and making significant investments in our outdoor infrastructure.

Assistant Secretary Estenoz also received a briefing on how historic funding through the Inflation Reduction Act is helping provide a unique investment for the park, including $5 million to increase employee capacity through fiscal year 2030, and $345,000 for the park and other NPS sites to promote forest resiliency and protect natural and cultural resources. Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Assistant Secretary Estenoz recently announced this historic funding to restore and strengthen climate resiliency across America’s national parks as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

America’s national parks are economic engines for the American economy. A new report released this week found that national park visitation broke records in 2022, resulting in a record high $50.3 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supporting 378,400 jobs. Across Tennessee, over 10.4 million visits to NPS sites contributed to $1.37 billion in visitor spending, supported 19,652 jobs and generated $2.1 billion in cumulative benefit to the local economy. At Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone, visitors spent $2.1 billion in the surrounding communities of Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina.


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