Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today joined President Donald Trump at the White House for the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act – bipartisan legislation Alexander sponsored that passed the Senate on June 17th, 2020 by a 73-25 vote and the House of Representatives on July 22nd, 2020 by a 310-107 vote.
The new law gives the biggest funding boost to the United States’ 419 national parks in half a century. The legislation incudes the “Restore Our Parks Act” that Alexander first introduced in 2018 and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which President Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Americans Outdoors recommended in 1985 when Alexander was its chairman.
“This truly is the most important and significant conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in at least a half century, and it simply would not have happened without President Trump’s leadership and support,” Senator Alexander said.
“There are many marchers in this parade—Democrats, Republicans, hundreds of conservation groups—but Donald Donald Trump is the first President to allow funds from energy exploration on federal property to be used to reduce the maintenance backlog in national parks. This is the largest federal investment in national parks since the Eisenhower years. And good people have been trying since 1964 to enact permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” stated Senator Alexander
Senator Alexander continued, “From the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Grand Canyon to Yosemite, 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.
“Here is what this new law means for Tennessee – it means that places like Look Rock Campground in the Smokies, which has been closed for several years because the sewage system doesn’t work, will have the resources needed to reopen so the 5,000 families who camp there each year can continue to enjoy it.
“And the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee, which suffers from a $27 million deferred maintenance backlog and welcomes more visitors each year than most of the western national parks, will have its roads and trails restored. And then in West Tennessee, the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, which has about $8 million of maintenance work that needs to be done on boat ramps and boat docks, will receive the support it needs as well.
“It will also fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a goal which good people have been working on since 1964. Fully funding the LWCF was also a recommendation of President Reagan’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, which I chaired in 1985.”
Senator Alexander concluded, “America’s greatest story teller, Ken Burns, has called our national parks ‘America’s best idea.’ The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that all Americans can enjoy ‘America’s best idea’ for generations to come.”
The Great American Outdoors Act fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanently. The LWCF has played a large role in protecting the outdoors. In Tennessee, the LWCF has provided about $221.4 million for conservation and outdoor recreation efforts since the 1960’s.
This legislation also includes the Restore Our Parks Act, legislation Alexander first introduced in 2018 that would be the single biggest help to the National Park System in 50 years. It will cut in half the maintenance backlog at the country’s 419 national parks, making $6.5 billion available over the next five years to fix roads, campsites and hiking trails so Americans can enjoy them.
The bill also provides funding to reduce maintenance backlogs for four other federal land management agencies: The U.S. Forest Service; The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; The Bureau of Land Management; The Bureau of Indian Education.
The U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act by a bipartisan vote of 73-25 on June 17. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act by a bipartisan vote of 310-107 on July 22.