McConnell on the Great American Outdoors Act: “I Urge All Senators to Join the Experts and Support the Bill”
‘Yesterday, our colleagues voted overwhelmingly to advance the Great American Outdoors Act. Thanks to the guiding leadership of colleagues like Senator Daines and Senator Gardner, we have a rare opportunity to take a huge step forward for some of our nation’s most cherished treasures.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the Great American Outdoors Act:
“Yesterday, our colleagues voted overwhelmingly to advance the Great American Outdoors Act.
“Thanks to the guiding leadership of colleagues like Senator Daines and Senator Gardner, we have a rare opportunity to take a huge step forward for some of our nation’s most cherished treasures.
“Every year, America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, battlefields, and public lands draw hundreds of millions of visits from across the country and around the world.
“Hunters and anglers. Backpackers and climbers. Bird-watchers and road-trippers. School groups and scientists. Across hundreds of millions of acres, there’s room for recreation and conservation, alike.
“And where our nation makes its natural wonders accessible, local communities thrive. According to the National Parks Service, park visitors contribute to more than $40 billion dollars in economic output in adjacent towns. From local hotels and restaurants to the outdoor recreation industry itself, they support nearly 330,000 jobs.
“So it’d be difficult to overstate the importance of our public lands in the lives of the American people. And when the Senate passes legislation to secure permanent funding for keeping them safe and accessible, we’ll be ushering in a bright future for American recreation and conservation.
“At the same time -- and just as importantly -- we’ll be addressing the areas where decades of funding levels for routine maintenance have not kept pace, leaving some of our parks and public lands inaccessible and potentially unsafe.
“This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where all of our love for the great American outdoors needs to be backed up with some sober accounting.
“In Senator Gardner’s backyard, in the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, last year’s totals put the costs of backlogged maintenance projects at nearly half a billion dollars.
“From upkeep of roads, bridges and dams to updates of wastewater and drinking water systems, we’re talking about projects with real consequences for recreation, conservation, and local economies.
“In Kentucky, we know all too well what happens when urgent maintenance is neglected. At Mammoth Cave National Park, for example, untreated sewer leaks in past years have restricted access to portions of the largest cave system in the world, and even threatened some of its native species.
“Today, more than $90 million in maintenance is still outstanding at that park. We are still waiting on funding to rehabilitate some cave trails that haven’t seen major investment since the 1930s.
“At the Forest Service’s London district office, Kentucky rangers are still waiting for funding for critical security and accessibility upgrades.
“Like any prized asset, public lands need regular maintenance. We shouldn’t let key infrastructure languish for decades and then fight uphill to make up for lost time.
“This is a familiar problem that is felt in different ways in every corner of our nation. So the solution will need to be just as sweeping. Fortunately, as last night’s lopsided vote demonstrates, our colleagues have assembled a deeply bipartisan set of solutions that our country deserves.
“I’m proud the work led by our colleagues from Montana and Colorado have received the endorsement of hundreds of national and local advocates for American recreation and conservation.
“I urge all Senators to join the experts and support the bill.”