"Great American Outdoors Act" moves to the House where LWCF and maintenance funding already has wide-spread support
WASHINGTON, June 17, 2020 — With a vote of 73-25, the Senate passed the “Great American Outdoors Act” (S.3422), bipartisan legislation that would permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million a year, while also funding a backlog of maintenance needs for national parks and other public lands. The bill passed without substantive amendments and now moves to the House where LWCF and maintenance backlog funding bills are endorsed by large majorities of the chamber.
Momentum for the bill comes in part from the role it could play in promoting economic growth and recovery by putting people to work on park infrastructure projects and investing in gateway communities as well as recreation, travel and tourism businesses particularly hard-hit by the current economic crisis. COVID-19 has spotlighted how critical national, state and local parks, trails and public lands are to the economies of communities across the country, as well as the huge inequities in who has quality access to these lands.
Statement from Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society on Senate passage.
“Our parks and public lands are the heart of our communities. That’s why people across the country need healthier, safer and better access to public lands, parks and outdoor spaces. Since the pandemic hit, we’ve seen how being outside on public lands has been a crucial way for many people to refresh their spirits and build community, but also the stark inequities in who has access to these parks and healing outdoor spaces. The need to safeguard the funding that goes towards our public lands, ensure they are protected and maintained, and guarantee we are providing safe, welcoming opportunities for all people to benefit from them is more urgent than ever.
“Today’s Senate passage of the ‘Great American Outdoors Act’ gets us a step closer to Congress keeping a promise to the people it serves to invest in the natural, recreational and cultural resources that anchor our communities. We now call on the House to keep up this energy and quickly get the ‘Great American Outdoors Act’ to the President’s desk, and with it, finally get full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund over the finish line.”
The Senate version of the “Great American Outdoors Act” was introduced in March just before the pandemic hit. Shortly following its introduction, the President signaled his willingness to sign it into law.
The House is well-positioned to act and quickly pass S.3422 on to be signed into law due to ongoing bipartisan momentum behind the popular LWCF full funding bill (H.R.3195) – co-sponsored by more than 230 House members – and a park maintenance backlog bill with 330 cosponsors, both of which cleared the Committee on Natural Resources almost a year ago. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) and 11 of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle – Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Mike Simpson (R-ID), TJ Cox (D-CA), John Katko (R-NY), Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Kendra Horn (D-OK), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Jared Golden (D-ME), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) – introduced companion legislation identical to the Senate version of the “Great American Outdoors Act” on June 4.
Full, permanent funding for LWCF has support from both long-term conservation champions and first-term Congress Members, indicating a widespread appreciation for the vitality of the program – and a desire by people throughout the country to see their leaders in Congress step up to protect critical investments in national and local lands, waters and communities that depend on them.
In the past two months, advocates, businesses and policymakers sent multiple letters to Senate and House leadership urging Congress to include the “Great American Outdoors Act” in future stimulus legislation or pass it on its own. These groups included the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a group of more than 100 local elected officials from ten Western states and the Tohono Oʼodham Nation, more than 850 outdoor recreation and conservation organizations, 118 House Representatives from both sides of the aisle, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and six former Secretaries of the Interior.
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The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to unite people to protect America's wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 111 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org