Alexander: Over 800 Conservation Groups Support Legislation to Cut the National Parks Maintenance Backlog in Half
Posted on June 23, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. June 23, 2020 – The U.S. Senate last week passed the Great American Outdoors Act — the most important conservation legislation in half a century — by an overwhelming 73-25 bipartisan vote. The legislation includes Alexander’s bill to restore the country’s 419 national parks and cut in half the national parks’ $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. The bill also fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanently, a goal of Congress since 1964.
This bipartisan solution to restore America’s national parks gained the support of more than 800 conservation groups, including:
The National Park Foundation: “Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is a remarkable achievement in advancing historic bipartisan legislation for our national parks. The National Park Foundation applauds Senator Alexander for his legacy of leadership and commitment to our nation’s most treasured spaces, especially Great Smoky Mountains National Park. GAOA, a crowning achievement to a lifetime dedicated to our public lands, will ensure our national parks receive the funding required to address deferred maintenance needs, remain accessible to all Americans, and continue to serve as economic engines for local communities in Tennessee and across the country.” – Will Shafroth, President & CEO, National Park Foundation.
The Nature Conservancy: “From the beginning, Tennessee’s outdoor heritage has been a cornerstone of our identity and our culture. The Great American Outdoors Act is an important investment in conservation, securing resources needed to care for our public lands, create jobs and expand access to the outdoors that everyone has the right to enjoy. The Senate’s overwhelming vote to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and invest in our national parks and public lands reflects the importance of our outdoors to our economy, our communities and our well-being. Though we still need a positive vote in the House, we’re grateful to Senator Alexander for his leadership and dedication in guiding the Great American Outdoors Act through the Senate.” – Terry Cook, Tennessee state director for The Nature Conservancy.
The National Wildlife Federation: “The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a truly historic conservation victory that will ensure that America’s public lands and treasured landscapes endure for future generations. It will also accelerate our economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis by creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs, while expanding outdoor recreational opportunities for every community in the country. We are grateful for the bipartisan leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Gardner (R-Colo), Joe Manchin (D-WVa), and Steve Daines (R-MT) to pass this legislation. We urge the House to act swiftly to pass the bill and send it to the President’s desk.” – Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
The National Park Conservation Association (NPCA): “For five years, NPCA, park advocates and communities across the country have urged Congress to fix our parks. NPCA’s members and supporters sent nearly 100,000 letters, made hundreds of phone calls and countless visits to members of Congress. Today, those efforts paid off as we moved closer than ever before to ensuring that our national parks get the funding they need and deserve. This bill is one of our best opportunities to do this in more than 50 years. Chronic underfunding, cuts in staffing, record visitation, and billions of dollars in repairs have burdened our national parks for years. Park roads and bridges are collapsing, water systems are failing, and visitor centers are crumbling. This momentous bill not only provides an opportunity to better care for these treasured places, it will help to increase access to public lands across the country, provide jobs and bring much-needed relief to local communities suffering through hard times. The overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill demonstrates the value and power our national parks have to bring people together. Today, Senators from across the country and across the aisle stood together in support of our parks, public lands and communities. But there is more work to be done to get this bill over the finish line. Congress must protect America’s legacy and help this bill become law.” – Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for NPCA.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The National Audubon Society: “Now is the right time for our nation to invest in the restoration and protection of our national parks and public lands for the benefit of our environment, our economy, and the hundreds of millions of visitors who explore these areas each year. In addition to preserving recreation access to irreplaceable lands, the act’s permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund would support projects that build resilience, reduce risk from future disasters, and ensure better stormwater management. With many Americans having spent more time closer to home over the past several months, the benefit of modern, resilient open space infrastructure is even more apparent. The Great American Outdoors Act would also address critical repair needs within our national parks and other public lands, helping to ensure visitor access, recreation, and the preservation of our nation’s history. This bipartisan legislation would create jobs and help sustain a recreation industry that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, annually contributes $778 billion in national economic output and generates 5.2 million American jobs. By supporting the restoration of crumbling roads, deteriorating buildings, historic structures, outdated utility systems, and other critical infrastructure, the Great American Outdoors Act is an important way to stimulate the economy while improving our quality of life. We applaud Senators Cory Gardner, Joe Manchin, Steve Daines, and Mark Warner for their leadership on this bill, and we look forward to engaging with the Administration and the leadership of the House of Representatives to ensure its passage and implementation.”
The Congressional Sportsmen Foundation: "The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation applauds Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Today's vote demonstrates the bipartisan support for advancing conservation and increasing access for hunters and anglers. When signed into law, this bill will provide much needed support for public lands and waters and boost the already formidable outdoor economy. CSF extends our sincere thanks to the Senate Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) members that voted to support these priorities." – Jeff Crane, president, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
The Great American Outdoors Act includes the Restore Our Parks Act, legislation Alexander first introduced in 2018 that would be the single biggest help to the National Park System in 50 years. It will cut in half the maintenance backlog at the country’s 419 national parks, making $6.5 billion available over the next five years to fix roads, campsites and hiking trails so Americans can enjoy them. This legislation also fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanently. The LWCF has played a large role in protecting the outdoors. In Tennessee, the LWCF has provided about $221.4 million for conservation and outdoor recreation efforts since the 1960’s. The bill also provides funding to reduce maintenance backlogs for four other federal land management agencies: The U.S. Forest Service; The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; The Bureau of Land Management; The Bureau of Indian Education.
The U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act by a bipartisan vote of 73-25 on June 17.