WASHINGTON—The Interior Department is ready to spend its first $1.6 billion from last year’s major new conservation funding law, primarily on transportation and recreation facilities at national parks and Native American schools, department leaders said Friday.

The first major spend, $3 million by the National Park Service, will help to finish the restoration of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, the department said. The project uses specialized lasers to strip algae, fungi and bacteria from the memorial’s exterior, among other work.

Department leaders on Friday didn’t provide funding details for other projects, but the money is expected to be allocated over the course of the year.

Funding comes from a new law, the Great American Outdoors Act, passed by Congress and signed by then-President Trump last year. It puts as much as $9.5 billion toward a National Park System backlog in deferred maintenance, which has grown to $12 billion since the 1990s. Tribal areas also are entitled to some of the money.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who helped marshal support for the law when she was a member of the House of Representatives, called the funding unprecedented in a call with reporters Friday. She said she was excited about its potential to help the economy and about the potential for more funding the Biden administration has asked Congress to approve in its new infrastructure proposal.

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