Action Alert! Help Pass the Great American Outdoors Act

The Senate just passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a historic bipartisan bill to fund parks and public lands! We need your help to get this bill taken up and passed by the House of Representatives.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
June 17, 2020

The Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a historic bipartisan bill to fund parks and public lands. The legislation includes measures The Mountaineers has spent years advocating for, including finally ensuring full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as well as establishing new funding to restore and maintain public lands. 

Please join us in asking the House members to move this legislation forward and thanking our senators for their strong support. 

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What is the Great American Outdoors Act?

The Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) combines two bills The Mountaineers have supported for years: full and permanent funding for LWCF and the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act. This major public lands funding package ensures $900 million for LWCF projects each year and makes up to $1.9 billion available for deferred maintenance and restoration of our National Parks and other public lands. And thanks to work from our partners at Outdoor Alliance, American Whitewater, and others, the bill includes an additional $600 million per year to address the maintenance backlog in our National Forests, BLM lands, and more. In total, the bill means as much as $2.8 billion a year for public lands, outdoor recreation, maintenance and restoration, and new green spaces! 

The last few months have highlighted the importance of the outdoors to our physical and mental health and the need to ensure equitable access to green space near home. More people than ever before are turning to the outdoors for comfort, solace, exercise, and community. This legislation is an incredible opportunity to create more outdoor recreation opportunities, and also make them more accessible and inclusive. 

The Senate was planning to vote on this historic bipartisan bill in early March, but rightly shifted their attention to the coronavirus response. On June 17, the Great American Outdoors Act overwhelmingly passed the Senate with strong support from Washington’s U.S. Senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. 

Permanent Funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

For over 50 years, LWCF funds have helped build and improve trails and trailheads, parks, river put-ins, and climbing areas, benefiting everything from city green spaces to national parks. The program takes a small portion of the revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling (no taxpayer dollars) and puts it towards recreation and conservation. Many iconic places in the Pacific Northwest, including Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, and the Pacific Crest Trail, have been protected by LWCF. The fund continues to be an important source of support for land conservation and increased recreational opportunities in Washington: for example, LWCF funds just helped the Access Fund protect a key climbing area near Leavenworth. 

This past March, LWCF was permanently reauthorized, meaning this important conservation and recreation program will be around for the long haul. However, this does not actually guarantee it will receive funding every year. Although LWCF is authorized to get $900 million each year, none of that funding is guaranteed. Over the 50-year history of the program, more than half of its intended funding – over $22 billion – has been diverted for other, non-conservation purposes. This bill will guarantee full funding for LWCF each year – which means that more public land will be protected and more parks will be created.

Thousands of our community have taken action to protect LWCF over the past four years. THANK YOU! Now it’s time to ensure funding for the future of this program – and make sure we don’t have to fight for funding every year!

Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act

Years of inadequate funding by Congress have led to a maintenance backlog on National Parks, National Forests, and other public lands. This bill will provide funding of up to $1.9 billion every year to address deferred maintenance and restoration. Despite the importance of National Parks to Washington state’s economy and quality of life, they need more than $427 million in infrastructure repairs. Mount Rainier National Park alone needs over $186 million in deferred maintenance. This includes crumbling roads and bridges, aging buildings and facilities, and overused trails.

We’re excited that the outdoor community also helped secure additional funding for maintenance on National Forests, BLM lands, and more. This funding will help keep trails and Forest Service roads operational, allowing Mountaineers to access the wild places we love to explore.

These funds will provide a much-needed economic boost for local economies and get people back to work. Every $1 million invested in LWCF could support between 17 and 31 jobs (source). Additionally, research shows that $1 spent from LWCF generates $4 in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone (source). These investments can also help rural gateway communities and outdoor recreation businesses like guiding companies, which have been particularly hard-hit by this crisis. 

What Needs to Happen Next?

The bill now heads over to the House of Representatives. We’re optimistic that the House will move the bill forward, but they need to move quickly and pass the bill without any additional amendments. At this late stage in the process, any changes would prevent this legislation from becoming law. The President has indicated that he will sign the bill when it passes the Congress. 

  • Contact your House representative to encourage them to move the package forward. Let them know how important public lands are to you, and that they need to move quickly.
  • It’s also essential to thank the senators that made this possible! For Washingtonians, Senator Cantwell has been a longstanding champion of LWCF – we are so appreciative of her commitment to public lands.

We’ve made it easy for you to contact both your House representative and thank the appropriate senators - just click the action button below.

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Main Image of Mt. Rainier. Photo by Bryce Mann.