“Great American Outdoors Act” now heads to the President's desk with wide-spread bipartisan support behind it
WASHINGTON, July 22, 2020 — Today, the House passed the “Great American Outdoors Act” with a vote of 310-107, and now sends the bill to be signed into law. This bipartisan legislation will 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. It successfully passed the Senate with a vote of 73-25 in June, and now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it quickly.
“Today’s bipartisan House passage of the 'Great American Outdoors Act' gets us to the very brink of fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund so it can serve its full potential for our country and communities,” said Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society. “After years of leadership and support from long-term and recent champions in both chambers of Congress, the 'Great American Outdoors Act' is now heading to the President’s desk with a tidal wave of momentum. Once signed, this historic bill will finally keep the 55-year-old promise of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to strengthen our communities through investment in our parks and public lands.”
Bipartisan momentum for LWCF and maintenance backlog funding bills has grown steadily over the past year, where they were endorsed by large majorities in both chambers. With the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural and gateway communities as well as recreation, travel and tourism businesses, passing the “Great American Outdoors Act” has become even more urgent because of the role it could play in promoting economic growth and recovery by putting people to work on projects investing in parks, public lands and outdoor recreation infrastructure.
Recent months have also spotlighted the stark inequities in who has access to parks and healing outdoor spaces, as well as their importance as places for building community and civic participation, further reinforcing the immediate need to safeguard the funding that goes towards public lands, ensure they are protected and maintained, and guarantee access for all people who need these places for their mental, physical and emotional health - now and for generations to come.
While it is technically the Senate version of the “Great American Outdoors Act” that will go to the President's desk to be signed into law, 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) – previously introduced identical legislation which gathered over 250 cosponsors. This followed ongoing bipartisan momentum in the House 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 a year ago.
In the past three 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.
- Kerry Leslie, Communications Manager, 415-398-1484, [email protected]
- Drew McConville, Senior Managing Director of Government Relations, 202-429-2654, [email protected]
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