On July 22, the United States House of Representatives passed The Great American Outdoors Act, historic legislation that will provide dedicated funding to reduce the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog and provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). For two decades, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has urged lawmakers to fix national parks’ crumbling roads, worn-out trails, failing water and sewer systems, and other critical maintenance issues. This momentous vote ensures our parks can continue to welcome millions of visitors each year and protect the natural and cultural resources that help tell our nation’s history.
For years, the National Park System has experienced chronic underfunding including a reduction in staffing and a growing backlog of nearly $12 billion in needed repairs – all while dealing with record visitation. This has made it extremely difficult for park staff to protect our national parks while providing visitors with the park experiences they deserve. Now, many of our public lands from Yellowstone National Park to Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, are reaching a breaking point.
The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act will provide crucial funding to repair the aging infrastructure in America’s more than 400 national park sites, dedicating up to $6.5 billion over five years. This legislation will address the highest priority park repair needs and generate 100,000 of infrastructure-related jobs. Additionally, the bill provides $900 million per year to LWCF to protect land in our national parks and public lands from incompatible development and to support recreational facilities in communities throughout the nation, increasing access to outdoor spaces for all.
“You cannot overstate the importance of this bill and what it will mean for national parks, public lands and communities across the country. This is the largest investment our country has made in our national parks and public lands in more than 50 years, and it comes not a moment too soon. With this passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, our parks’ crumbling roads, decaying buildings and outdated water systems will be fixed, more than 100,000 people will have much-needed jobs, and every American, no matter where they live, will have more access to outdoor spaces. This bill is a conservationist’s dream. This victory is years in the making. For two decades, NPCA, park advocates, partners, businesses and elected officials have worked together to push Congress to make national parks and America’s legacy a priority. People across the country flew to DC to meet with their elected officials, made phone calls, attended meetings, and wrote to their newspapers about the need to fix our parks. Their voices were heard, and their perseverance paid off. The coronavirus outbreak has shown just how much people value their parks, trails, forests and waters, and how critical these places are to our health and wellbeing. Moving forward, we need to make sure that everyone has access to public lands, and that’s what this bill will help do. We commend Congress and everyone who helped make this bill a reality. Our parks are national treasures that bring people together, from across the country and across the aisle. The power of America’s national parks proved steadfast as Congress today ensured these places can continue to thrive for our children and grandchildren to experience for years to come.” – Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).