The Great American Outdoors Act: An Historic, Bipartisan Boost To Our Public Lands

This Strong Bipartisan Legislation Authored By Sens. Cory Gardner And Steve Daines ‘Will Secure The Future Of Our Nation’s Natural Treasures’ And ‘Invest In The Repair And Restoration Of Deteriorating Infrastructure’


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “Today, we’ll take our first vote to advance the Great American Outdoors Act, a generational bill from Senator Daines and Senator Gardner that will secure the future of our nation’s natural treasures…. Our colleagues’ legislation does two big things: It improves access to parks and public lands by investing in maintenance and upkeep, and it secures permanent support for the missions of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Their legislation has already persuaded 59 cosponsors here in the Senate. It’s earned the bipartisan endorsement of the last six former Secretaries of the Interior. And a diverse coalition of independent advocates -- from the Nature Conservancy to the Outdoor Industry Association to the American Battlefield Trust -- have called on us to pass this bill…. I look forward to discussing this landmark legislation more in the days ahead, to supporting it here on the floor, and to urging every one of my colleagues to join me.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 6/08/2020)

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): “This week, we are debating landmark legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act, that brings two ideas together that have been worked on by so many of my colleagues in this Chamber for so long. I introduced this legislation with Senator Manchin, along with so many other bipartisan champions for the outdoors and our great public lands and spaces. The Great American Outdoors Act combines $1.9 billion a year for 5 years for deferred maintenance at the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management … and the Bureau of Indian Education schools, and permanent annual funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the crown jewel of our conservation programs, at $900 million per year…. This will allow the land management agencies to address the highest priority projects to bring our outdoor recreation economy into the 21st century for the enjoyment of the 22nd, the 23rd, and the 24th centuries … I hope my colleagues will support this motion to support our public lands and the communities that sustain them by supporting the Great American Outdoors Act.” (Sen. Gardner, Congressional Record, S.2755-2757, 6/08/2018)

SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT): “[T]oday we have the opportunity to make history in the U.S. Senate. Together, we can move forward with passing one of the most important conservation bills in decades. In fact, standing here today, I can tell you something. There are not many issues that bring Republicans and Democrats together, but something actually does that, and that is protecting our public lands…. Today we have the opportunity to move forward on this bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, a conservation bill that will provide full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and finally tackle this massive maintenance backlog that is plaguing our public lands, including our national parks…. It is an honor to serve the people of Montana in the U.S. Senate and to bring this vote--a vote decades in the making--before the U.S. Senate today. I urge my Senate colleagues to stand with me to pass this bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. I am ready to get this done for Montana. Future generations are counting on our vote today, and I believe, truly, it is a conservative principle to conserve.” (Sen. Daines, Congressional Record, S.2758-2759, 6/08/2018)


The Great American Outdoors Act Will Work To Significantly Reduce Deferred Maintenance And Infrastructure Projects Throughout America’s Public Lands System And Permanently Funds The Land and Water Conservation Fund

“The Great American Outdoors Act combines $1.9 billion per year for five years for deferred maintenance at the National Park Service (NPS), United States Forest Service (USFS), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and permanent annual funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million per year.” (“The Great American Outdoors Act,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner Website, Accessed 6/08/2020)

  • The Great American Outdoors Act establishes a National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund which will “[r]educe by over half of the NPS’s $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, … address the high priority deferred maintenance projects in national parks across the country; and [s]ignificantly reduce the more than $8 billion in deferred maintenance backlog across the USFS, FWS, BLM, and BIE.” (“The Great American Outdoors Act,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner Website, Accessed 6/08/2020)


The Great American Outdoors Act Enjoys Significant Bipartisan Support

The Great American Outdoors Act, introduced by Sens. Gardner and Daines, has 58 additional bipartisan cosponsors.

  • S. 3422 is cosponsored by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martha McSally (R-AZ), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Doug Jones (D-AL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), David Perdue (R-GA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Brian Schatz (D-HI). (S. 3422, 116th Congress)

The previous 6 bipartisan Secretaries of the Interior have written in support of the Great American Outdoors Act.

  • FORMER INTERIOR SECRETARIES RYAN ZINKE, SALLY JEWELL, KEN SALAZAR, DIRK KEMPTHORNE, GALE NORTON, and BRUCE BABBITT: “During our time as Secretaries of the Interior, we had the privilege and responsibility of stewarding some of America’s most incredible landscapes and natural and cultural treasures. Now, more than ever, we are all cognizant of the critical role of public lands in our lives, as places to recreate, to recharge and to seek solace in the midst of great uncertainty—and, also, to create jobs. Together, we write to strongly urge swift passage and enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) … This bill (and its expected House companion) is critically needed to support the public lands upon which all Americans rely. The Great American Outdoors Act will advance the protection of America’s special places and invest in the repair and restoration of deteriorating infrastructure. The bill will help address priority repairs in our National Parks and on other public lands by directing up to $9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance needs within the National Park System, other public land agencies, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. It will also fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation’s most important conservation program, as authorized at $900 million every year to ensure protection of and access to our public lands…. We are pleased to see strong bipartisan support from the House and Senate—and from the President—for the Great American Outdoors Act. Americans need these public lands. And Americans need your continued leadership to deliver this historic legislation into law.” (Former Secretaries Zinke, Jewell, Salazar, Kempthorne, Norton, And Babbitt, Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Rep. McCarthy, and Sens. McConnell and Schumer, 6/03/2020)


A Broad Coalition Of Conservation, Outdoor Recreation, And Business Groups Support Passage Of The Great American Outdoors Act

OVER 860 NATIONAL, REGIONAL, AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS: “Our organizations, and the members we represent, strongly support passage and subsequent enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) as quickly as possible. This bill is necessary to support the public lands we all rely upon by achieving the twin goals of protecting America’s special places and repairing deteriorating infrastructure…. The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure a future for nature to thrive, kids to play, and hunters and anglers to enjoy. National parks and public lands provide access to the outdoors for hundreds of millions of people every year and habitat for some of our country’s most iconic wildlife. These treasured places also tell the stories that define and unite us as a nation. Funds provided in this bill will secure these vital resources while preserving water quantity and quality, sustaining working landscapes and rural economies, increasing access for recreation for all Americans no matter where they live, and fueling the juggernaut of our outdoor economy.” (Letter to Sens. McConnell and Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Rep. McCarthy, 5/11/2020)

  • Letter signed by 105 national organizations: American Battlefield Trust, American Conservation Coalition, American Endurance Ride Conference, American Forests, American Hiking Society, American Horse Council, American Littoral Society, American Mountain Guides Association, American Rivers, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Sportfishing Association, American Trails, American Woodcock Society, Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Archery Trade Association, Audubon Naturalist Society, Back Country Horsemen of America, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Boone and Crockett Club, City Parks Alliance, Clean Water Action Cliff Garten and Associates Inc., Coalition for American Heritage, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, Coalitions & Collaboratives, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Continental Divide Trail Coalition Defenders of Wildlife, Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, Docomomo US, Environment America, Fly Fishers International, GreenLatinos, Heart of the Rockies Initiative, HECHO (Hispanics enjoying Camping Hunting and the Outdoors), Hipcamp, Hispanic Access Foundation, Hispanic Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, Just Get Outdoors, Land Trust Alliance, League of Conservation Voters, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Moonshot Missions, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, National Coast Trail Association, National Deer Alliance, National Forest Recreation Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, National Park Foundation, National Park Hospitality Association, National Parks Conservation Association, National Recreation and Park Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary, Route Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Natural Gear Camouflage, Natural Resources Defense Council, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Pacific Crest Trail Association, Partnership for the National Trails System, Patagonia, PeopleForBikes, Piragis Northwoods Co, Public Lands Alliance, Quality Deer Management Association, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, REI Co-op, Ruffed Grouse Society, RV Industry Association, Scenic America, Sierra Club, Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals, Specialty Equipment Marketing Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, Student Conservation Association, Surfrider Foundation, The Archaeological Conservancy, The Brice Institute, The Conservation Alliance, The Conservation Fund, The Corps Network, The Cougar Fund, The Evangelical Environmental Network, The Garden Club of America, Inc., The Lyme Timber Company, The Nature Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Trumpeter Swan Society, The Trust for Public Land, The Trust for the National Mall, The Wilderness Land Trust, The Wilderness Society, The Wildlife Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, United States Tour Operators Association, UrbanPromise Ministries, US Water Alliance, Wildlands Network, and Winter Wildlands Alliance.
  • Another 756 regional, state, and local organizations also signed the letter.

U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly supports S. 3422, the “Great American Outdoors Act,” an important, bipartisan bill that would provide funding certainty for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the pressing maintenance and construction backlog on public lands. … Local LWCF projects have the potential to put many thousands of Americans back to work as the American economy recovers from the pandemic. … We applaud the bipartisan leadership of Sens. Gardner, Manchin and Daines, who crafted this legislation. The Chamber urges passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.” (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Letter to Members of the United States Senate, 6/4/2020)



Related Issues: Infrastructure, Infrastructure