Great American Outdoors Act includes critical outdoor recreation infrastructure bill and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
Today, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) members lauded the Senate for introducing a bipartisan bill, the Great American Outdoors Act, that prioritizes the $20 billion maintenance backlog facing our public lands and waters and finally fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It includes the Restore Our Parks Act (ROPA), which would help improve key outdoor recreation related facilities like docks, restrooms, campgrounds, trails, roads and more – many of which have needed updating or repairs for years.
ORR members led the extraordinary effort to ensure the inclusion of other agencies, beyond the National Park Service, in this legislation. Thanks to the efforts of Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), among many others, the U. S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will receive maintenance backlog funding. We are thrilled with this outcome that will ensure adequate infrastructure for all types of recreation on our public lands and waters can support rural communities and economies.
LWCF funds can be a lifeline for communities in need of recreation access to local, state and national parks, wildlife habitats, working forests and more. This important program has only been funded at the fully authorized amount of $900 million twice in history. This bill would achieve the decades-long goal of fully and permanently funding LWCF into the future while allowing for more recreation access projects on local, state and federal lands that will support a thriving outdoor recreation economy for years to come.
Infrastructure – especially solving the agencies’ deferred maintenance needs and expanding access for all forms of outdoor recreation – is the main issue that brought ORR together and unites our dozens of sectors. ORR members have worked tirelessly over the years educating leaders in Washington, D.C. and other outdoor recreation partners in order to get both of these key recreation bills to this point. Our strong membership will not stop their work on behalf of all outdoor recreation enthusiasts until this measure is signed into law.
“Today is a huge step for outdoor recreationists, the industry and the $778 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “We have supported these issues for a long time and are thrilled to see movement on them as they will help to further fuel the outdoor recreation economy across the country. We appreciate the sponsors’ dedication to these bills and the huge outpouring of support from ORR members and partners to achieve the inclusion of BLM, USFS, and FWS in the Great American Outdoors Act.”
“Nearly 13 million American families and households use the nation’s trails to ride horses and will benefit from robust trail maintenance programs. The horse industry supports passage of the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 500) and Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act (S. 1081) to enrich the outdoor experience for the country’s recreational riders,” said Julie Broadway, president of the American Horse Council. “The American Horse Council (AHC) applauds the leadership of Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) for introducing a bipartisan package that combines these two important measures that will improve access to America’s trails.”
“The package of legislation introduced today that includes permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Restoring Our Parks Act is necessary to continue supporting public access to our nation’s lands and waters,” said Mike Leonard, American Sportfishing Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “Public lands are critical for providing access to recreational fishing, which supports 800,000 jobs and has a $125 billion a year economic impact. This legislative package will help provide much needed investments to improve access to, and maintenance of, our nation’s public lands for the benefit of the nation’s 49 million anglers and all who enjoy the outdoors.”
“America’s public lands are at the root of the multibillion-dollar outdoor economy. It is critical that our country invest in addressing backlogged maintenance on our federal lands to ensure these shared spaces are accessible for Americans and visitors to enjoy,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “We are delighted the Great American Outdoors Act includes full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as funding to ensure that not only our national parks get the attention they need, but also lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The young adults enrolled in America’s Service and Conservation Corps stand ready to assist resource managers in restoring our public lands.”
“Some of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse areas are found underwater in National Parks such as Biscayne National Park in Florida and the Channel Islands National Park in California”, said Tom Ingram, President & CEO at The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association. “Divers observe firsthand this amazing diversity, and want to preserve these submerged resources, including historic shipwrecks and war monuments. The recreational diving community and the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) fully support the passage of S. 500, the Restore Our Parks Act. We urgently ask for your support in passing this important legislation which will ensure access to these incredible submerged resources for generations to come, while supporting local economies and building healthy communities.”
“The Land Water Conservation Fund and the Restore our Parks Act are essential to increasing access to the public lands and resources our industry depends on,” said Marine Retailers Association of the Americas President, Matt Gruhn. “The over $30 billion backlog in federal conservation projects, and upwards of $11 billion backlog in maintenance and repair projects in our National Parks, significantly affect rural economies, and recreational boaters’ and anglers’ ability to take part in the activities they enjoy. We thank Senators Gardner and Manchin for supporting our industry and ask Congress to fully fund these important programs.”
“Maintaining our public lands is critical for continued access to recreation for motorcycles, ATVs and ROVs (sometimes called side-by-sides),” said Scott Schloegel, Senior Vice President, Government Relations at the Motorcycle Industry Council. “We commend the authors for including Forest Service and BLM lands in the bill. Proper maintenance is critical for responsible management of riding areas and healthy public lands.”
“With such a large, bipartisan group of elected officials coming together in support of legislation that makes a significant investment in our public lands and waters, it is abundantly clear that the outdoor recreation industry, led by boating and fishing, has earned our seat at the decision making table and we’re here to stay,” said Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of government and legal affairs at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Without raising a dime in new taxes, this bill will repair, restore, and protect our cherished recreation resources for generations to come. There are no good reasons for Congress to delay its passage one more day.”
“Concessioners have helped park visitors enjoy great experiences for more than a century. We believe the nation should demonstrate a new and enduring commitment to connecting all Americans with their parks and other Great Outdoors places – a commitment that includes elimination of a chronic maintenance shortfall and of inadequate places and infrastructure to host the visits of our growing population,” said Scott Socha, chair of the National Park Hospitality Association. “We applaud today’s action by Senate champions and the Administration on the Restore Our Parks Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. 2020 is an appropriate year for visionary action – great clarity for steps that will make park visits safer, more enjoyable and providing economic sustainability to gateway communities across the nation.”
“Today marks a milestone achievement for the Outdoor Industry Association and outdoor enthusiasts across the country,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. “Our shared public lands and waters are the foundation of the huge and growing outdoor recreation economy, and we are thrilled to see our elected officials coming together in a bi-partisan way to deliver on full funding for LWCF and to commit sustainable funding to address the maintenance backlogs in our national parks. Both of these efforts will go a long way in continuing to grow the outdoor economy and assisting our continued effort to get more Americans into the outdoors.”
“The Restore Our Parks Act offers innovative solutions and sustainable funding that will address the deferred-maintenance backlog on federal lands, which is critical to improving and expanding national campgrounds,” said Craig Kirby, RV Industry Association President. “Campgrounds on federal lands are currently showing distressing signs of wear: crumbling roads and bridges; deferred maintenance needs; and limited camping availability, jeopardizing not only the RV industry but the entire outdoor recreation industry. We are encouraged by the support of this legislation and ask Congress to pass this bill without delay.”