Gardner, Daines, Burr hail Senate passage of Great American Outdoors Act

U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Steve Daines (R-MT) on Wednesday commended U.S. Senate passage of what is considered the most significant conservation legislation in decades, the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act.

“Years of bipartisan work have led to this moment and this historic opportunity for conservation,” said Sen. Gardner, who introduced his chamber’s version of the bill with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). “Today the Senate passed not only the single greatest conservation achievement in generations, but also a lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The newly approved H.R. 1957 would provide $900 million per year in annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and authorizes $1.9 billion per year for five years, totaling $9.5 billion, for deferred maintenance projects at the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education, among numerous other provisions.

H.R. 1957, which previously passed the House in April 2019, was overhauled and used as the legislative vehicle for the Senate, which voted 73-25 on June 17 to approve it. The measure now heads back to the House for approval before being sent to the president to be signed into law.

“Today is a great day for every American who loves the great outdoors and wants to protect them for future generations to enjoy,” said Sen. Burr, adding that the LWCF “is a commonsense program that not only increases recreational access to public lands in every state, but does so at no cost to taxpayers.”

Last year, he said, Congress finally recognized the importance of the LWCF by making the program permanent, “but we were still missing one important thing: adequate funding.”

“This legislation makes sure the program will permanently receive the small portion of offshore drilling receipts that allows it to work effectively — at no cost to taxpayers,” Sen. Burr said. “And this summer, as more Americans head to our national parks in a time of uncertainty, this sound investment will make sure our parks are ready to welcome them.”

The Great American Outdoors Act also would improve access to public lands, create jobs, and fund overdue maintenance projects to ensure public lands remain an important contributor to state and local economies.

“Today, we passed the most important conservation bill for Montana and the nation in decades — one that will increase public access to our public lands, support our national parks and importantly, protect our Montana outdoor way of life,” said Sen. Daines, an original cosponsor of the Senate bill.

Sen. Gardner called on the House to quickly pass the bill “in order to provide jobs to the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and protections for the great American outdoors for future generations of Americans to cherish.”