Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Richard Burr (R-NC) today introduced S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act, landmark legislation to preserve and protect our country’s public lands. The bipartisan legislation provides permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and addresses the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks and other land management agencies.
For nearly three years, Sen. Warner has fought to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the increasing maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia.
“For too long, national parks in Virginia and across the country have forgone important repairs and upkeep projects due to the National Park Service’s $12 billion maintenance backlog,” said Senator Warner. “For several years, I have pushed to address this backlog so that we can provide much-needed relief to our parks and preserve these natural treasures for our future generations. That’s why today, I’m proud to introduce the Great American Outdoors Act – a bipartisan compromise that includes provisions from my bill to restore our parks. This legislation represents a truly historic investment in our public lands – especially those in Virginia, which are overwhelmed by $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance needs. I look forward to working with my colleagues on getting this bill passed and signed into law as soon as possible.”
“The LWCF supports projects in Colorado and all across our country at no cost to the taxpayer, and fighting every year to figure out how much money the program will receive doesn’t provide the long-term planning certainty that our outdoor and conservation community deserves. Last year we were successful in permanently reauthorizing the LWCF, the crown jewel of conservation programs, and I have been fighting ever since to make funding permanent,” said Senator Gardner. “Senator Daines and I secured the President’s support and a path for full and permanent LWCF funding to become law and address the deferred maintenance backlog that the park system is currently facing. Congress has a historic opportunity to ensure the public lands we all own will receive the funding they deserve by passing the Great American Outdoors Act.”
“I started working to secure permanent funding the day after we passed permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund last year. I am excited to see there is such broad bipartisan support to secure full, permanent funding for LWCF and address the maintenance backlog across all of our national parks and treasured public lands. Every state and territory and nearly every county in our country has benefited from LWCF funding. Today I am proud to be the lead Democrat introducing the Great American Outdoors Act. This is an historic achievement for conservation and a testament to the strong, bipartisan work that is still possible when we put politics aside to do what is best for our country,” said Senator Manchin.
“As Montana’s voice in the U.S. Senate, I’ve made it one of my top priorities to protect and expand access to our public lands and our Montana outdoor way of life,” said Senator Daines. “This historic bipartisan effort will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the maintenance backlog in our national parks and forests. I thank President Trump for his support in getting this done and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this historic conservation win signed into law.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act is landmark legislation that carries on Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of protecting our public lands for future generations,” said Senator Portman. “The Great American Outdoors Act includes my legislation with Senators Warner, King, and Alexander, the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, which will provide funding to address the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national park sites throughout the country, including more than $100 million in maintenance backlog in Ohio’s eight national parks. I’m pleased to have worked with my colleagues to expand the Restore Our Parks Act to include funding for the other land management agencies in the Great American Outdoors Act. I want to thank Senators Gardner, Manchin, and Daines for their work on this legislation, and I’m glad the president is embracing this legislative effort. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation signed into law.”
“One hundred years from now, long after we’re gone and our names are forgotten, America’s natural treasures will endure – if we take care of them now,” said Senator King. “For too long, we’ve neglected our public lands and national parks. The $12 billion backlog facing our National Parks is no way to treat America’s greatest idea, and too often funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund becomes a political pawn caught in the middle of other issues. This legislation would right these wrongs, and take the necessary steps to make sure America’s natural beauty can be enjoyed by generations to come. We have a duty to protect these lands for our children and their children; today, for the first time in a long time, it looks like we may take a much-needed step to fulfill that responsibility.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act is the most important conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in the last half century. This bipartisan bill will cut in half the $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks, including $235 million in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It will also reduce maintenance backlogs at our national refuges and forests,” said Senator Alexander. “It will 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. 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.”
“America’s great outdoors are part of the heritage and beauty of our nation,” said Senator Burr. “That’s why we must do everything we can to protect, maintain, and preserve them. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has a proven track record of success, but if we don’t fully fund it, we risk the loss of natural landscapes and easy access to state and national parks. I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this significant bipartisan legislation, and I look forward to its passage so we can ensure these national treasures are enjoyed for generations to come.”
A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here.