Washington, DC – June 17, 2020– Today, the United States Senate passed The Great American Outdoors Act, historic legislation that would provide dedicated funding to reduce the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog – nearly $12 billion in needed repairs across the National Park System – and provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). For five years, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has urged lawmakers to fix national parks’ crumbling roads, worn-out recreational trails, failing water and sewer systems, and other critical maintenance issues. Today’s momentous vote brings us one step closer to protecting our parks now and for generations to come.
National parks protect some of our most iconic natural wonders, from Half Dome at Yosemite to the Chimney Tops at the Great Smoky Mountains to the Maritime Heritage Trail at Biscayne. Parks also preserve our heritage and the stories that unite and inspire us, from the battlefields at Gettysburg to human rights battles at César E. Chávez National Monument. But over the past decade, the National Park System has experienced chronic underfunding, a 14 percent reduction in staffing, and a growing backlog of needed repairs, all while dealing with record visitation, making it extremely difficult for staff to ensure the protection of our national parks and the resources they hold.
The Great American Outdoors Act would provide funding to repair aging infrastructure in America’s more than 400 national park sites, dedicating up to $6.5 billion to infrastructure repairs over five years. This legislation would address the highest priority repair needs at parks across the country and would generate tens of thousands of infrastructure-related jobs. Additionally, the bill would provide $900 million per year to LWCF to protect land in our national parks and other public lands from development and to support recreational facilities.
Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:
“For five years, NPCA, park advocates and communities across the country have urged Congress to fix our parks. NPCA’s members and supporters sent nearly 100,000 letters, made hundreds of phone calls and countless visits to members of Congress. Today, those efforts paid off as we moved closer than ever before to ensuring that our national parks get the funding they need and deserve. This bill is one of our best opportunities to do this in more than 50 years.
“Chronic underfunding, cuts in staffing, record visitation, and billions of dollars in repairs have burdened our national parks for years. Park roads and bridges are collapsing, water systems are failing, and visitor centers are crumbling. This momentous bill not only provides an opportunity to better care for these treasured places, it will help to increase access to public lands across the country, provide jobs and bring much-needed relief to local communities suffering through hard times.
“The overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill demonstrates the value and power our national parks have to bring people together. Today, Senators from across the country and across the aisle stood together in support of our parks, public lands and communities. But there is more work to be done to get this bill over the finish line. Congress must protect America’s legacy and help this bill become law.”