WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today discussed with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland two issues that are very important to Tennessee: resources to reduce the maintenance backlog in the Great Smoky Mountains and efforts to combat the issue of Asian carp within waterway systems.
Hagerty noted that our national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains, which is the most visited national park in America, are going to see even more visitors as more and more Americans travel and tourism increases post-pandemic.
“The park [Great Smoky Mountains] right now has a $235 million maintenance backlog, and the majority of that backlog is tied up in roads, trails, restrooms, visitor centers, things of that nature. The Great American Outdoors Act has already begun to reduce that burden, but I want to emphasize that we’ve got to make sure that we have the funds ready and sustain the investments into the future on this property,” Senator Hagerty said. “Secretary Haaland, can you discuss for me how your department will prioritize which projects out of this backlog will be funded by the Great American Outdoors Act?”
In response to Hagerty, Haaland committed to ensure that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park would have the resources it needs to reduce the maintenance backlog.
Hagerty also asked the Secretary about the problem of Asian carp, which is a predatory species harming Tennessee’s water and ecosystems.
“If you look at what the economic impact of this is, fishing and recreational boating generates $7.2 billion of annual economic value in my state of Tennessee, and it supports over 27,000 jobs,” Senator Hagerty said. So this has not only an environmental impact, but it has an enormous economic impact, as well. We find Asian carp now all the way from Chattanooga to Memphis. It’s rapidly evolving and incredibly invasive. Thanks to the leadership of this subcommittee in the past two years, Congress has provided over $25 million a year to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help contain the spread. I’d just like to get your input on how the funds have been distributed across the states and how that funding will have an impact on containing the spread. I’d love to get your perspective, Madam Secretary.”
The Secretary expressed that she understood the situation and the bipartisan interest in combatting the invasive species, saying that contract fishing has shown to be successful in dealing with the problem. The Secretary and her staff committed to working with Hagerty and other Senators to continue to advance solutions.
*Click the photo above or here to watch*