Alexander: U.S. Senate Passes Most Important Conservation Legislation in a Half Century

Posted on June 17, 2020

“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.” – Senator Lamar Alexander  

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 17, 2020 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act 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, which the senator said will be “the biggest boost to our national parks in 50 years.” It also fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanently, a goal of Congress since 1964.   

“The Great American Outdoors Act is the most important conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in the last half century,” Alexander said. “Today, too many of our national parks are in bad shape, and American families visiting those parks are often shocked to find that so many of the roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers are in such bad condition or even closed. 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 our national forests and refuges.

“Here is what this means for Tennessee – it means that places like the beautiful Look Rock Campground in the Smokies, which has been closed for several years because the sewage system doesn’t work, will have the resources needed to reopen so the 5,000 families who camp there each year can continue to enjoy it. And the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee, which suffers from a $27 million deferred maintenance backlog and welcomes more visitors each year than most of the western national parks, will have its roads and trails restored. And then in West Tennessee, the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, which has about $8 million of maintenance work that needs to be done on boat ramps and boat docks, will receive the support it needs as well.”

Alexander continued, “It will also 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.”

Alexander concluded, “None of this would be possible without the strong support of President Trump and so many Democrat and Republican senators. In the midst of all the bad things that are going on today, this is a good thing, and sends a strong signal to the American people that Congress can come together to do important work. 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.”   

The Great American Outdoors Act 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.  This legislation also 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. 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 today passed the Great American Outdoors Act by a bipartisan vote of 73-25.

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