Broad Bipartisan Support For The Great American Outdoors Act

‘[Montana Sen. Steve] Daines And Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner Have Emerged As Key Republicans Pushing The Legislation,’ ‘The Most Significant Investment In Our Public Lands In A Generation’


The Great American Outdoors Act, introduced by Sens. Gardner and Daines, has a total of 60 bipartisan cosponsors. (S. 3422, 116th Congress)

In A Rare And Much Needed Piece Of Good News This Week,’ ‘The U.S. Senate Is Moving Toward Passage Of A Major Conservation Bill’

“The U.S. Senate is moving toward passage of a major conservation bill. This week, federal lawmakers are considering the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $900 million annually from oil and gas royalties to conservation projects and would allocate $9.5 billion over five years to deferred maintenance on public lands.” (“U.S. Senate Moves Close To Passage Of Landmark Conservation Bill,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 6/10/2020)

  • “President Donald Trump has said he will sign this Great American Outdoors Act if lawmakers get it to his desk. Senators this week took up the issue, aiming for a vote next Tuesday, and around 200 House members have said they’ll support similar legislation. Conservationists for decades have prioritized these measures as crucial steps to ensure healthy public lands, increasingly seen as essential for a booming recreation industry that has become an economic mainstay, especially in Colorado and the West.” (“With Cory Gardner Leading The Charge, Senate Takes Up Great American Outdoors Act,” The Denver Post, 6/09/2020)

“In a rare and much needed piece of good news this week, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act. This landmark bipartisan legislation will fully—and permanently—fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually. The second major provision of the GAOA will address increasingly dire public-land maintenance backlogs…. Originally introduced in March, the GAOA has since gained momentum with 60 total cosponsors. The LWCF is a critical tool for conservation and access in the U.S. … GAOA also addresses the issue of public-land maintenance backlogs by establishing The National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund. This new fund—earmarked for deferred maintenance projects—will receive a maximum of $1.9 billion annually to be divided among federal land management agencies over five years…. Combining these two land-management funds into one bill is a win for hunters, anglers, and outdoor lovers everywhere. The LWCF is, [Steve] Kline [chief policy officer for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership] says, the single best tool we have to acquire habitat and improve access.” (Natalie Krebs, “The Senate Is About to Pass a Bill That Will (Finally) Fund Public Lands and Ease Maintenance Backlogs in National Parks,” OutdoorLife, 6/09/2020)


Senators: ‘The Great American Outdoors Act Will Create Jobs While Protecting And Expanding Access To The Great Outdoors Across Our Country For Everyone,’ ‘Every State In The Union Receives Support Through The Great American Outdoors Act,’ ‘We Are On The Cusp Of Passing The Most Historic Conservation Legislation In 50 Years’

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY), Great American Outdoors Act Cosponsor: “Thanks to the bipartisan leadership of colleagues like Senators Daines, Gardner, Portman, Alexander, Manchin, and Warner, we are attending to legislation that will shape the future of the great American outdoors for the better. It’s fitting that the legislation before us comes with the support of such a broad, bipartisan coalition, because our national parks, forests, and other public lands are treasured in every state in the union … It’s taken more than a century of dedicated work to designate, acquire, and maintain the public lands Americans enjoy today. And it’s the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which this legislation will give permanent support, that makes them accessible for generations to come.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 6/10/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “Take my home state of Kentucky, for example. For years, I’ve been proud to advocate for LWCF funding to conserve some of the Bluegrass’ precious wilderness and historical sites. Back in 1996, Kentucky was the only state without a national wildlife refuge, and it was my legislation that helped secure the creation of one at Clarks River. Last year, additional legislation I authored helped create another sanctuary for wildlife and recreation at the confluence of the Green and Ohio Rivers. Already, the Fish and Wildlife Service has marked the Green River Wildlife Refuge as the LWCF’s top funding priority for the coming year. So the dedicated resources in this legislation would be instrumental in the growth of Kentucky’s newest national treasure, along with other areas like Clarks River. And as the LWCF drives the preservation of more national wetlands, forests, and battlefield space in Kentucky, I suspect every one of my colleagues is equally proud of similar efforts in their own states.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 6/10/2020)

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO), Great American Outdoors Act Sponsor: “The Great American Outdoors Act is a historic piece of legislation with tremendous bipartisan support, 60 cosponsors representing states across the country Republicans and Democrats coming together for the most significant conservation package this country has seen in 50-plus years. It combines the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is our crown jewel of conservation programs, along with the Restore Our Parks Act which will put billions of dollars to catch up with the deferred maintenance backlog in our national park system…. The biggest and greatest ideas of the American people are represented in our national parks, our forest systems. This legislation will provide dollars to maintain our national parks, our national forests, our Bureau of Land Management … our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service properties, along with the Bureau of Indian Education. Last night’s vote 80-17 was a tremendous showing of support. I look forward to this continued bipartisan success through this week and, ultimately, to the bill’s passage.” (Sen. Gardner, Press Conference, 6/09/2020)

  • SEN. GARDNER: “Every state in the Union receives support through the Great American Outdoors Act. From sea to shining sea, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Restore Our Parks Act, [as part of] the Great American Outdoors Act will provide millions of dollars in opportunity for recreation.” (Sen. Gardner, Floor Remarks, 6/10/2020)

SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT), Great American Outdoors Act Sponsor: “We are on the cusp of passing the most historic conservation legislation in 50 years, and isn’t it ironic that it will take public lands to bring a divided government and a divided nation together. I chair the National Parks Subcommittee. We need to address the maintenance backlog of some $12 billion as our parks are loved to death by the American people but fraying on the edges. We have expanded that to include the forest service and our forest lands as well as BLM and tribal lands as well on the maintenance backlog…. This will deal with the infrastructure challenge that we face right now across our public lands, it is a job-creating bill, in fact, in Montana some $7 billion outdoor economy we have in our great state, and it protects our Montana way of life.” (Sen. Daines, Press Conference, 6/09/2020)

  • SEN. DAINES: “The Great American Outdoors Act isn’t just about tomorrow, next week, or even next year. This is a bipartisan bill about the future of our children and grandchildren, about legacy, about their ability to enjoy and access our great outdoors and our public lands. Standing here today, I can tell you there aren’t too many issues, unfortunately, that bring both Republicans and Democrats together, but protecting our public lands for future generations is something that brings us all here together.” (Sen. Daines, Congressional Record, S.2779, 6/09/2020)

SENATE MAJORITY WHIP JOHN THUNE (R-SD): “I want to add my congratulations to Cory Gardner, Steve Daines, and others on a very big bipartisan accomplishment here in the Senate. This is … something that is long overdue and I can tell you as someone who represents a state where next to agriculture the travel industry is one of our top industries in South Dakota in terms of our economy, and we are looking forward to seeing the backlog of maintenance that is necessary in places like Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave and the Badlands gets dealt with, and so this legislation will do that… We are doing important work. This is a major piece of bipartisan legislation, and of course, there are so many other things going on in the Senate this week. (Sen. Thune, Press Conference, 6/09/2020)

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): “We are entering now … into the second century of the National Parks system. No country has anything that rivals it. There are a few maintenance issues … that have been out there for about half of the hundred year life and the parks. This is an opportunity to go in and do what we need to do to restore the parks, to do that backlog of maintenance, to continue to make them places where people wanted to go and to go safely and to look at the public lands that were doing that…. [I]n our state, in Missouri, 133,000 jobs relate to outdoor recreation and continuing to make the government land that is our responsibility more available, more accessible, but more protected and more updated at the same time is exactly what this bill does. I was glad to be one of the early sponsors, cosponsors of this new, bigger bill solving the problem not by making it smaller, but by taking all of the diverse ideas that people had in this area, putting them into one bill and, certainly, Senator Gardner and Senator Daines playing a leadership role in this have made a big difference.” (Sen. Blunt, Press Conference, 6/09/2020)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): “One of the bills before us this week, in what is called the Great American Outdoors Act, is the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act. It directs Federal funding from royalties on oil and gas leases and other energy leases to Federal lands. It directs that funding to our national parks to take care of deferred maintenance…. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear there is a lot of demand to be in the out-of-doors. And so I believe as we start to reopen our parks this summer, which we will do soon, Americans will be all the more eager to go out to our parks and explore our country’s natural beauty and explore its history. The problem is that when people head to the parks, they may be surprised that things are a little rundown. This isn’t new. It has been happening to our parks for decades, actually…. Why has this happened? Well, again, because every year we appropriate funding for the operations of the park--for nature programs, for rangers, for day-to-day operations and activities--but we haven’t provided enough money to provide for these maintenance needs…. So this is an opportunity for us to do the right thing by these treasures that we have, to make sure they don’t continue to deteriorate. This is where our Restore Our Parks Act is so important to pass…. It is a win-win, especially right now. This enables us to restore our parks and our public lands--these great national treasures. It supports jobs at a time when people are anxious to get back to work, and it does all this by taking this funding that comes from the leases--oil, natural gas, and other energy projects. It is good for our economy. We need to get people back to work again, and it is an example of how Congress can pass laws that both create jobs and serve the public’s interests.” (Sen. Portman, Congressional Record, S.2751-2753, 6/08/2020)

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): “We have an unusual assortment of U.S. Senators, outside sportsmen groups, conservation groups, the President of the United States, and all of the [recent] former Secretaries of the Department of the Interior from Babbitt to Zinke, someone said, going alphabetically--we all support this bill that came up last night with 80 different votes…. The Great Smoky Mountains has about 12 million visitors a year. That is three or four times as many as Yellowstone does or any of the western parks because it is in the East. It has $224 million of deferred maintenance ... Now, that is a massive disappointment to people who consider our national parks as our greatest treasures, to go there and find a campground closed, a bathroom that doesn’t work, a bridge that is closed, a road with a pothole, a trail that is worn out, and visitor centers that are dilapidated, as they are in some of our centers around the country. This is what we are talking about…. Of all the times in our recent history when people would like to go outdoors, it would be right now, just to get out of the house and get away. Of all the times when we need some extra jobs, it would be right now, when we have 14 percent of the people in Tennessee out of work. Some of them could go to work on the roads and the bridges and the trails and the potholes and the sewage systems and the other things that need to be fixed, if we had the money. So that is the first thing this bill is about.” (Sen. Alexander, Congressional Record, S.2781-2782, 6/09/2020)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): “The Great American Outdoors Act will create jobs while protecting and expanding access to the great outdoors across our country for everyone, whether that be hunting, fishing, or hiking in the Monongahela National Forest in my great State of West Virginia or rafting down the Gauley River or learning about Civil War history... This is a legacy that we can all pass down to our grandchildren and generations to come, and it has been a long time coming. … The Great American Outdoors Act will help us to be good stewards of our public lands while, at the same time, creating thousands of new jobs--a bipartisan win-win, which we should have more of. We have broad, bipartisan support, with 60 Senators signing on, which is representative of how important these bills are to every State and every county in every State. We have support from the administration and unwavering support from over 900 conservation and sportsmen groups throughout the Nation. It is a shining example of Democrats and Republicans coming together to put politics aside to do what is best for conserving the natural resources of this great Nation.  The passage of this bill will be an historic achievement, and I believe this will be one of the most significant conservation bills ever enacted into law.” (Sen. Manchin, Congressional Record, S.2753-S.2754, 6/8/2020)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): “[T]his legislation is so critically important. The legislation, it has been mentioned, represents the most significant investment in our public lands in a generation, and I believe, at this moment in time, something critically important as well: a job creator in our outdoor economy. The Great American Outdoors Act will provide up to $9.5 billion over 5 years to address not only the deferred maintenance and backlogs at the National Park Service but other Federal land agencies as well…. The bill also finally provides full and mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It has been a long road getting to this point, but I am thrilled that we are finally at this moment in time on this important, job-creating legislation that is also preserving the legacy that God granted this country in terms of the outdoors, in terms of our history. This is really a gift to our kids, grandkids, and future generations…. I mentioned that in Virginia we are blessed with a number of historic battlefields. The Richmond National Battlefield Park has over $5 million in deferred maintenance, and the nearby Petersburg National Battlefield has nearly $9 million in deferred maintenance. Our legislation would help preserve these important pieces of our heritage while also supporting the local economies. At the Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service, the maintenance backlog sits at $90 million. Our legislation will put people to work on these overdue repairs, including Skyline Drive and stretches of the Appalachian Trail, which are, again, at the heart of Virginia’s outdoor tourism industry…. I urge my colleagues to support this historic legislation that will help restore our national parks and public lands, create tens of thousands of jobs across the country, and expand recreation opportunities for millions of Americans. This bipartisan piece of legislation, which also has the support of the administration, is legislation whose time has arrived. I look forward to its successful passage later this week.” (Sen. Warner, Congressional Record, S.2783-2784, 6/09/2020)

SEN. TOM UDALL (D-NM): “Our country’s public lands are at the very core of our national identity. They protect our national heritage, our lands, waters, and our wildlife for future generations. Our national parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges are irreplaceable treasures--sources of beauty, of solitude, recreation, and of renewal. From the Grand Canyon to Stonewall National Monument to the city park in our neighborhood, our public lands sustain our people, and we owe it to these special places and to ourselves and to our children to sustain them for the future. Today, I stand here in strong support of the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation that at long last fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and invests in our public lands for the future. … Our nation’s conservation heritage is uniquely American. The bill before us strengthens our nation’s commitment to conservation, to protecting our wild places, to preserving our history and cultures, and to nurturing our bonds with nature and the great outdoors. I urge every member here to wholeheartedly support our heritage and vote in favor of this bill.” (Sen. Udall, Congressional Record, S.2757-S.2758, 6/8/2020)

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D-WA): “I rise to speak about the historic vote to happen shortly that will advance conservation and public lands projects, called the Great American Outdoors Act. I urge all of my colleagues to support this important legislation. … [W]e are very happy today that our colleagues have joined in this bipartisan effort to say that public lands really do mean a lot to our nation and that they deserve an upgrade--a facelift--an investment, and a commitment to keep funding the things that will allow us to expand public access to them. It is the legislation that we need to pass even in this unbelievable time of so many other critical issues. I believe now, more than ever, our local parks and our urban green space can give solace to Americans who need refuge from all of the issues we are dealing with. Now, more than ever, we need to promote access to the shared public lands so that every American can get access, and the American people have had an incredibly difficult several few months. Let’s give them something to think about for their futures--access to the great outdoors, which will help all of us in the future.” (Sen. Cantwell, Congressional Record, S.2754-S.2755, 6/8/2020)

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D-NM): “Madam President, during these past months, in the midst of a pandemic that has kept most of us inside our homes, Americans have grown to appreciate, in new ways, how critical each moment of fresh air can be to maintaining both our physical health and our mental well-being. More people are getting outside than ever before, whether for a quick walk in their local neighborhood park or by seeking solitude on the many public lands held in trust for each and every American citizen. Coming from a State that is blessed with expansive skies and remote open spaces, I am convinced that investing in the future of our parks and our public lands will be a key path for our Nation to recover from the challenges we currently face. That is why I am so proud that we are coming together this week to bring the Great American Outdoors Act to the Senate floor for a vote. Our bipartisan legislation will permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and finally dedicate real resources to begin tackling the multibillion dollar infrastructure backlog in our national parks, our national forests, and our wildlife refuges. If you have spent time enjoying your local parks, trail systems, ballfields or open space in the last 50 years, you have almost certainly experienced the impact of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In New Mexico, LWCF has been instrumental in protecting some of our most treasured public lands--places like the Valles Caldera National Preserve with its trout streams, its high altitude meadows, and its massive elk herd…. These are the places where new generations of Americans will learn about both our natural and our human history. It is where they will go to find inspiration to chart new paths forward for our great Nation. For all of these reasons, I am so proud that we have come together on this legislation. We can all understand why investing in restoring and expanding opportunities in our parks and public lands has to be part of our national recovery. These are the places where all of us belong.” (Sen. Heinrich, Congressional Record, S.2785-2787, 6/09/2020)

SEN. TOM CARPER (D-DE): “[T]he bill before us today, the Great American Outdoors Act, is landmark legislation. It would fulfill a longstanding promise to the American people to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This measure will also make a down payment on deferred maintenance plans of our Nation’s beloved public lands, which includes over 400 national parks. It also includes more than 500 national wildlife refuges that are under the jurisdiction of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on which I serve as ranking member…. Our national and State parks have always been places that bring people from all backgrounds together. Our national historic sites and monuments commemorate the events that have forged and tested us as a nation, as well as the sacrifices that we have made in our quest to become that more perfect Union. They are also places from which people have called on their government, our government, for change and for equality…. These places inspire us. They allow our voices to be heard, but they also give us strength; they give us solace; and they give us the opportunity to heal. The bill before us today helps us to ensure that our public lands remain places where we can remember, where we can reflect, and we can recharge…. the first land acquisition through the State side of the Land and Water Conservation Program in this country occurred in Delaware. Brandywine Creek State Park, located just north of Wilmington, DE--my hometown--was established in 1965…. Since that time, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has enabled the purchase and development of many additional State parks that are crown jewels in all three counties of the First State. I will mention a few of them: White Clay Creek, Cape Henlopen, Fox Point, Bellevue, Killens Pond, and many more.” (Sen. Carper, Congressional Record, S.2775-2776, 6/09/2020)



Related Issues: Infrastructure, Jobs