Legislation has broad bipartisan support, including President Trump and hunting and conservation organizations
Washington, D.C. - On Thursday, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress to introduce the Great American Outdoors Act. The legislation is an investment in our public lands. First, the bill permanently funds the existing Land and Water Conservation (LWCF) which increases access to public lands. The bill also importantly helps maintain public lands by creating a new fund to address the backlog of deferred maintenance in National Parks, National Forests, Bureau of Land Management assets, Wildlife Refuges, and Bureau of Indian Education school construction.
Idaho’s National Forests have some of the largest deferred maintenance needs, such as roads and trails, while Yellowstone National Park has over $585 million in deferred maintenance costs. The bill does not spend taxpayer funds but instead utilizes existing funding from energy production on federal lands and waters. The legislation is based off a framework of bipartisan legislation the Congressman Simpson originally authored in 2017 called the LAND Act. The bill is supported by both Idaho and national conservation groups in addition to President Trump.
“I am very excited to see the Great American Outdoors Act being introduced in the House and I am proud to lead those efforts,” said Congressman Simpson. “In 2017, I sat down with public lands groups and we decided that fixing the backlog of maintenance and preserving those lands through LWCF was a partnership that makes sense, which is why I wrote the LAND Act. Seeing that vision become a reality through the Great American Outdoors Act and having the support of so many diverse stakeholders, including the President of the United States, is a testament to how important our public lands are. At the end of the day, and through these trying and unprecedented times, we realize the outdoors are why we live in Idaho. This legislation ensures generations to come will be able enjoy these amazing places as we do today.”
The legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman Simpson, Congressman Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Congressman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Congressman John Katko (R-NY), Congressman T.J. Cox (D-CA), Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Congresswoman Kendra Horn (D-OK), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Congressman Jared Golden (D-ME). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, which has since been planned for the week of June 8th, and the House is expected to consider the bill as well.
“The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act is a much-needed win for the American people. It will create jobs in communities across America, restore aging national park and public lands infrastructure, preserve historic sites, and protect recreation access,” said Marcia Argust, project director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks campaign. “Now more than ever, people recognize the importance of getting outside. Taking care of these places and the communities and small businesses that depend on them is a smart investment.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act gives an invigorating jolt to the growing momentum in Congress to fully fund our parks and public lands. The COVID pandemic has shown just how critical our national, state and local parks, trails and public lands are to every Idahoan. Never before has the emotional benefits of time spent with nature been so evident. We thank Congressman Simpson for his tireless leadership in working to reauthorize and fund the Land Water and Conservation Fund, and urge both chambers of Congress to drive this legislation over the finish line and send the Great American Outdoors Act to the President’s desk” said Craig Gehrke, Director, Idaho Office, The Wilderness Society.
“Thank you Representative Simpson for your leadership on the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Justin Hayes, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. “This bill ensures that Idahoans will continue to have access to our amazing public lands. If you hunt, fish, hike or ride on public lands, this bill will help maintain access to the special places you love. The strong bipartisan support for this legislation speaks volumes about how many Americans care about their public lands. From the forests of the panhandle to the desert rivers in southern Idaho, public lands and open spaces are vital parts of every Idahoan’s identity and the Great American Outdoors Act will help maintain our connection to these special places,” Hayes added. “This will create jobs at a critical moment for our country and will ensure that Idahoans have access to the public lands we love. For too long the government has delayed basic upkeep of our roads and trails, resulting in washouts, closures and blocked access. This bill represents a great step in the right direction while lowering record levels of soaring unemployment.”
“We commend Congressman Simpson for his leadership to fix our parks and bring much-needed relief to local economies that rely on outdoor recreation and tourism. Our national parks are in trouble as billions of dollars are needed to repair their broken water systems, crumbling roads, overgrown trails and outdated visitor centers,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “After years of communities and park advocates working alongside champions in Congress, we are closer than ever before to ensuring our national parks and public lands like Craters of the Moon National Monument and Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge can continue to provide safe and enjoyable conditions for millions of visitors every year.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act is smart, long overdue conservation. This bipartisan bill will improve our trails and recreation sites making it easier for hunters and anglers to access our natural resources. It also makes lasting investments in our outdoor recreation economy at a time when we need to get Americans back to work. We want to thank Representatives Simpson and Cunningham for working across the aisle and introducing this legislation,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
“Hunters and anglers have advocated for full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund for years, and Rep. Simpson has been right beside us. He understands the critical role LWCF plays in providing access to great places to hunt and fish. He also appreciates the importance of resolving checkerboard lands and addressing the maintenance backlogs of our public land management agencies. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers thanks Reps. Simpson and Cunningham for introducing the Great American Outdoors Act. We look forward to working with them to get it across the finish line,” said Land Tawney, President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation applauds and thanks Representatives Mike Simpson his leadership in introducing this vital legislation. Full funding of the LWCF will provide conservation organizations and landowners certainty in their agreements to protect and expand wildlife habitat and public lands access. LWCF funding already allowed RMEF to complete more than 80 habitat and access projects that conserved more than 152,000 acres. Enactment of the Great American Outdoor Act would represent one of the most significant conservation achievements in decades. RMEF encourages swift passage of this critical bipartisan legislation by the House of Representatives,” said Kyle Weaver, President & CEO Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“Thank you Congressman Simpson for introducing The Great American Outdoors Act in the House. This is the most important piece of legislation for conservation in decades. By ensuring permanent funding for LWCF and tackling the deferred maintenance backlog on our public lands, this bill will benefit sportsmen and the species we conserve for generations to come,” said Laird Hamberlin, CEO of Safari Club International.
“The nearly $12 billion National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog, of which 47% is for historic assets, puts historic buildings and other infrastructure at risk of permanent damage or loss. The Great American Outdoors Act is a bipartisan solution that would provide $9.5 billion in dedicated funding over five years for much needed repairs of the National Park Service and other federal agencies. Along with fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this bill would ensure preservation of some of our nation’s most iconic historic places from Independence Hall to Mesa Verde National Park,” said Tom Cassidy, Vice President for Government Relations and Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.