Washington, D.C. – It is no exaggeration to say that something remarkable and historic happened this week. President Donald Trump signed into law the most important conservation legislation in a half century, the Great American Outdoors Act.
From the National Mall to the Great Smokies to the Grand Canyon to Pearl Harbor, too many of the 419 national park properties are in bad shape, and visitors often are shocked to find so many roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers in bad condition or even closed.
The reason for the all the excitement is that the new “Great American Outdoors Act” over the next five years will provide $9.5 billion to cut in half the deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks and forests and other public lands so Americans can enjoy them.
The law also permanently provides $900 million each year for the Land and Water conservation Fund (LWCF).
Since the 1960’s, the LWCF has provided $221 million for Tennessee, which included the purchase of the 10,000 acre Rocky Fork property in Upper-East Tennessee and the purchase of over 2,000 acres to create the John Tully State Forest in West Tennessee.
There were many marchers in this parade – Democrats, Republicans, hundreds of conservation groups – but this would not have happened without President Donald Trump’s support. He is the first President to allow funds from energy exploration on federal property to be used to reduce the maintenance backlog in national parks.
And when he visited Tennessee in March I asked him and he agreed to expand to include other public lands in the legislation that I had introduced three years ago covering only national park properties.
Here is what this new law means for Tennessee – 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 to reopen so 5,000 families who once camped there each year can enjoy it.
The Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee, which has a $27 million deferred maintenance backlog and welcomes three million visitors each year – more than most national parks – will have its roads and trails restored. The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park has a $30 million maintenance backlog.
And the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge in West Tennessee has a $8 million of maintenance work that needs to be done on boat ramps and boat docks.
Italy has its art, England has its history, Egypt has its pyramids, but the United States has The Great American Outdoors. That is what we celebrated this week at the White House, and I was proud to be one marcher in the parade.
Click here to watch President Trump sign into law this historic legislation.