U.S. Senator Gardner: Senate Passes the Great American Outdoors Act
Historic conservation legislation fully funds the LWCF and maintenance backlog on federal lands
Washington, D.C., June 17, 2020 – Today the U.S. Senate voted 73-25 to pass the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, landmark conservation legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and 51 other Senate members. The Great American Outdoors Act fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at a level of $900 million every year and addresses the approximately $20 billion maintenance backlog on federal public lands.
“Years of bipartisan work have led to this moment and this historic opportunity for conservation,” said Senator Gardner. “Today the Senate passed not only the single greatest conservation achievement in generations, but also a lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. I call on the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay in order to provide jobs to the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and protections for the great American outdoors for future generations of Americans to cherish.”
“I’m proud to have worked closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this historic conservation bill. Full and permanent funding for the LWCF is critical so our land management agencies can continue their legacy of conservation and growing opportunities for outdoor recreation. Addressing the daunting deferred maintenance needs in our national parks is long overdue and will ensure all of our public land management agencies can operate fully to maintain and protect the public lands we all cherish. In the Mountain State, we have a rich history, and at the center of it is our love and appreciation for the outdoor playground we have been blessed with. The Great American Outdoors Act will guarantee the wild and wonderful corners of West Virginia are protected for generations to come,” said Senator Manchin. “I’ve seen firsthand the jobs that the outdoor recreation economy has brought to all areas of West Virginia. At a time of historic unemployment, there is simply no better time than now to pass this much needed legislation. This is a historic achievement for conservation and a testament to the strong, bipartisan work that is still possible when we put politics aside to do what is best for our country.”
“Today, we passed the most important conservation bill for Montana and the nation in decades – one that will increase public access to our public lands, support our national parks and protect our Montana outdoor way of life,” said Senator Daines. “It has been one of my highest priorities to fight for LWCF and our national parks in the Senate, and with this monumental bipartisan vote, LWCF will have full, mandatory funding and we’ll be able to address our maintenance backlog at our parks. I am proud to have secured Senate passage of this major conservation bill and I look forward to getting it out of the House and onto President Trump’s desk for signature.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act is a landmark achievement that carries on Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of protecting our national parks and public lands for generations to come,” said Senator Portman. “It includes my legislation with Senators Warner, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan The Restore Our Parks Act, which will help rebuild our national park infrastructure and address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects throughout our park system while supporting more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years. Now, more than ever, we need our parks and our parks need us. I want to thank Senators Gardner, Manchin, and Daines for their work on this legislation, and I’m glad the president has embraced this legislative effort. I look forward to the House of Representatives passing this legislation and seeing the president sign it into law.”
“Over the past few years, I’ve been sounding the alarm on the mounting costs associated with repairing and maintaining our national park sites across the Commonwealth. Frankly, the National Park Service hasn’t had the federal resources it needs to preserve our natural treasures in Virginia and across the country. Failing to act now would have put these historical treasures at risk, and would have taken a devastating toll on small towns and communities whose economies depend on Virginia’s outdoor tourism industry. Last year, Virginia’s national parks helped to support and create 17,300 jobs – an increase of 1,300 from 2018. And once this bill is signed into law, more than 10,000 jobs could be created in Virginia just by the work needed to restore and maintain Park Service sites. I’m proud that the Senate finally passed this commonsense bipartisan solution, and now it’s up to the House to ensure we protect and preserve these irreplaceable resources for years to come,” said Senator Warner.
“America’s natural beauty has been passed down from generation to generation, creating an untold number of lifelong memories. Now, it’s our turn to protect these lands for our children, and their children,” said Senator King. “Unfortunately, we’ve fallen short on this responsibility for too long, leaving the NPS with a $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects in national parks from Acadia to Zion, and regularly allowing funding for the widely popular LWCF to get caught up in unrelated political squabbles. That changes today. The Great American Outdoors Act is monumental legislation that will preserve these lands for future Americans. The overwhelmingly bipartisan vote showed just how much this issue transcends politics – because a sunrise from Cadillac Mountain inspires the same awe in everyone, no matter how you vote in November. These lands are a great unifier – a distinctly American legacy, that we inherited from those that came before us. Today’s passage extends that legacy onward, and ensures that millions of people are able to connect with the wonders that surround us for years to come.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act is the most important conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in the last half century. This bipartisan bill will cut in half the $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks, including $224 million in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It will also reduce maintenance backlogs at national forests and refuges,” said Senator Alexander. “It will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), an unrealized goal of Congress and the conservation community since 1964. Fully funding the LWCF was also a recommendation of President Reagan’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, which I chaired in 1985. None of this would be possible without the strong support of President Trump and so many Democrat and Republican senators. I hope Congress can send this bill to the president’s desk soon so future generations can continue to enjoy our national parks and public lands.”
“Investing in public lands is the right fiscal policy, it’s good for us, and it’s good for our future. Public lands give us places to recreate, to hunt, to fish, to find solace, to find recovery, to find enjoyment, to find amazement. They also drive our juggernaut outdoor economy, which generates $887 billion in consumer spending every year. This bill will inject money into our economy, create jobs, and make the repairs that our lands and land infrastructure need,” said Senator Cantwell.
“The Great American Outdoors Act creates thousands of jobs and a lasting outdoor heritage that we will all benefit from for decades to come. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of America’s most successful conservation programs and has helped preserve many treasured places in New Mexico—including the Valles Caldera, Ute Mountain, and Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. LWCF also protects our drinking water, provides public land access, and ensures that every kid in America can easily access outdoor spaces near their home,” said Senator Heinrich. “Public lands are uniquely American and offer endless opportunities to explore our nation’s natural and historical treasures, and significantly boost local economies in surrounding communities. I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan effort to fully and permanently fund LWCF and invest in the infrastructure that improves access and visitor experience to our National Parks and all our public lands for generations to come.”
Gardner Contact: Annalyse Keller, 202-224-5941
Manchin Contact: Sam Runyon, 202-228-1810
Daines Contact: Katie Schoettler, 202-774-8034
Portman Contact: Emily Benavides, 202-224-5190
Warner Contact: Rachel Cohen, 202-228-6884
King Contact: Jeff Sobotko, 202-718-0168
Alexander Contact: Ashton Davies, 202-224-7154
Cantwell Contact: Ben Marvin-Vanderryn, 202-224-8277
Heinrich Contact: Whitney Potter, 202-450-9144
Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.