Senate Passes Landmark Conservation Bill, The Great American Outdoors Act

Led By Sen. Gardner And Sen. Daines, The Senate Passed The Bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, ‘The Most Significant Conservation Legislation Enacted In Nearly Half A Century,’ Which ‘Stands To Benefit Every American’

“The Senate has approved a bipartisan bill that would double spending on a popular conservation program and devote nearly $2 billion a year to improve and maintain national parks. The 73-25 vote on Wednesday sends Great American Outdoors Act to the House, where approval is expected. It would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. The bill would spend about $2.8 billion per year on conservation, outdoor recreation and park maintenance.” (“Senate Approves $2.8B Plan To Boost Conservation, Parks,” The Associated Press, 6/17/2020)

“The Great American Outdoors Act would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund each year at its congressionally authorized $900 million amount, making more money available for public lands acquisition and for parks and other amenities at state and local levels. The measure also provides $1.9 billion a year over five years primarily to address deferred maintenance at National Park Service sites. Some of the money would fund maintenance projects for other agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.” (“Gardner Lands Bill Clears Senate,” The [Grand Junction, CO] Daily Sentinel, 6/17/2020)

“It’s a remarkable breakthrough … In May, more than 850 signatories representing conservation organizations, local governments, and state and regional tourism boards urged congressional leaders to support the bill. ‘The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure a future for nature to thrive, kids to play, and hunters and anglers to enjoy,’ they wrote…. [T]he bill stands to benefit every American, especially now.” (“Outdoor Rec Just Got Its Own Stimulus Bill,” Outside, 6/17/2020)


The Great American Outdoors Act Passed Thanks To The Efforts Of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner And Montana Sen. Steve Daines

“A major public lands bill spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., cleared the Senate this morning … Gardner helped broker the public-lands-bill deal earlier this year when he and Steve Daines, R-Mont., met with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss the LWCF and maintenance-funding measures. Trump then promised to sign a combined bill and urged its congressional approval.” (“Gardner Lands Bill Clears Senate,” The [Grand Junction, CO] Daily Sentinel, 6/17/2020)

  • THE MISSOULIAN EDITORIAL BOARD: “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of those programs of special importance to states such as Montana, where public lands are not only a way of life but also a major pillar of the economy. Yet for too long the LWCF has been left to languish at the bottom of the list of priorities in Congress, despite its obvious public benefit and strong bipartisan support…. The other major component of the Great American Outdoors Act is full and permanent funding for the LWCF…. With 59 co-sponsors, the bill is likely to pass, and Daines has already secured President Trump’s promise that he will sign it into law…. This week, Montanans should voice their support for this bill and thank both of their U.S. senators for pushing their colleagues to support it as well.” (Editorial, “Final Push For Full Funding For Land And Water Conservation Fund,” The Missoulian, 6/14/2020)
  • “For many conservationists, the Great American Outdoors Act has been a lightning bolt out of the blue, sparked by a tweet from President Trump. ‘I’m calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks,’ he tweeted on March 3. He went on to give credit to two Republican senators, Colorado’s Gardner and Montana’s Steve Daines, both of whom had visited the president in the Oval Office on February 27 to urge support for the bill.” (“Outdoor Rec Just Got Its Own Stimulus Bill,” Outside, 6/17/2020)


‘Years Of Bipartisan Work Have Led To This Moment And This Historic Opportunity For Conservation,’ ‘We Passed The Most Important Conservation Bill For Montana And The Nation In Decades,’ ‘A Landmark Achievement That Will Help Carry On Teddy Roosevelt’s Legacy Of Protecting Our National Parks And Public Lands For Generations To Come’ Which ‘Sends A Strong Signal To The American People That Congress Can Come Together To Do Important Work’

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “America’s hundreds of millions of acres of public lands are the result of hundreds of years of exploration and conservation. Today, the Senate will act to ensure this inheritance will stand the test of time for generations of Americans yet to come. The Great American Outdoors Act will bring much-needed resources to the long-deferred maintenance and upkeep in parks and other public lands all across our country. And it will secure permanent support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and its missions of expanding access to national treasures. This major legislation is only before us because of the persistent effort on the part of several of our colleagues. So one last time, I’d like to thank Senator Gardner and Senator Daines for their leadership, and Senators Portman, Manchin, Alexander, and Warner, among other colleagues on both sides, for all their work to bring this bipartisan project to completion. I hope, following our action, that the House will take it up and pass it quickly. The president has already said he is eager to sign it. We should not let this historic opportunity pass us by.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 6/17/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “America’s great outdoors are a breathtaking treasure, setting us apart from the rest of the world. Visiting public lands is an experience passed down through the generations. Now, it’s our turn to preserve these natural wonders for the future. Across Kentucky, this bipartisan legislation can help drive tourism, support local communities, and secure these pastimes for years to come…. The Great American Outdoors Act will support Kentucky’s outdoor sporting and fishing traditions. And it will allow for critical maintenance and upkeep so these Kentucky lands continue to stand the test of time. As Senate Majority Leader, it was my honor to bring this legislation to the floor and deliver results for families and workers throughout Kentucky.” (Sen. McConnell, Press Release, 6/17/2020)

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO), Great American Outdoors Act Sponsor: “Years of bipartisan work have led to this moment and this historic opportunity for conservation. Today the Senate passed not only the single greatest conservation achievement in generations, but also a lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. I call on the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay in order to provide jobs to the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and protections for the great American outdoors for future generations of Americans to cherish.” (Sen. Gardner, Press Release, 6/17/2020)

SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT), Great American Outdoors Act Sponsor: “Today, we passed the most important conservation bill for Montana and the nation in decades - one that will increase public access to our public lands, support our national parks and importantly, protect our Montana outdoor way of life. I look forward to seeing it pass the House and getting it onto President Trump’s desk for his signature.” (Sen. Daines, Press Release, 6/17/2020)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): “Passage of this legislation is a big win for Ohio and our country. It represents a landmark achievement that will help carry on Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of protecting our national parks and public lands for generations to come. The bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act will help rebuild our national park infrastructure by helping to address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects throughout our park system while supporting more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years. In Ohio, this means helping to address the more than $100 million in critical infrastructure improvements necessary across our eight national parks. Now, more than ever, we need our parks and our parks need us. As an avid outdoorsman, I’m glad the president has embraced this legislative effort, and I look forward to the House of Representatives passing this legislation and seeing the president sign it into law.” (Sen. Portman, Press Release, 6/17/2020)

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): “The Great American Outdoors Act is the most important conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in the last half century. 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…. 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…. 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.” (Sen. Alexander, Press Release, 6/17/2020)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): “I am pleased to join my colleagues in supporting the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill to provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and to address the deferred maintenance backlog for our nation’s public lands.  Under the expert leadership of Senators Gardner, Manchin, and Daines –fifty-nine bipartisan Senators have cosponsored this legislation that will allow landowners, states, local communities, and conservation partners to plan for the future and to restore our national parks…. Over the last five decades, Maine has received more than $191 million in funding from LWCF. Examples of this funding include the Cold Stream Forest, a Forest Legacy project in Somerset County to preserve a beautiful area that continues the long and proud Maine traditions of conservation, public access to recreation, and working forests; in addition, we have the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in southern Maine, where once an undeveloped 110-acre tract along the coast in Biddeford was preserved for natural habitat and expanded recreational access…. Furthermore, another important piece of this bill addresses our deferred maintenance backlog on our nation’s public lands…. [O]ur national parks have a huge maintenance backlog and that include Acadia National Park, a true gem of a park on the coast of Maine where we have seen record numbers of visitors in recent years. This bill will help Acadia National Park tackle the more than $60 million of maintenance backlog work on trails, roads, bridges, and buildings to ensure that every visitor can experience the absolute beauty of this true gem of a park on the Maine coastline.” (Sen. Collins, Remarks, 6/11/2020)



Related Issues: Infrastructure