Advocacy

Issue Brief: Great American Outdoors Act

THE ISSUE

ASLA supports legislation that addresses the deferred maintenance backlog of national parks and other public lands across the country as well as the full, permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Background

Due to an ever-increasing volume of visitors and a lack of adequate funding, the National Park Service (NPS) is unable to keep up with its maintenance needs. As a result, many projects have been deferred or even cancelled. These projects include the repair and/or replacement of aging visitor centers, water infrastructure, historic buildings, and docks in addition to transportation-related projects such as roads, bridges, tunnels, trails, scenic overlooks, and parking lots. By 2018, it was estimated that the deferred maintenance needs had grown to nearly $12 billion. NPS is not alone in its deferred maintenance backlog, as most federal land management agencies lack funding to keep up with maintenance on public lands.

Since its creation in 1964, LWCF has been one of the most popular and bipartisan conservation programs that Congress has ever created. LWCF is utilized to preserve, protect, and provide access to America’s public lands, wildernesses, scenic areas, forests, and natural resources. Additionally, through its State and Local Assistance Program, LWCF is the only federal program that funds the design and construction of community parks. While LWCF is authorized to receive up to $900 million per year, Congress repeatedly diverts funds to other purposes. Rarely has LWCF been appropriated at even half the yearly amount allowed under law and full funding has only been met twice in over 50 years.


Bill Summary

After months of negotiations involving Senate sponsors and conservation groups, including ASLA, Senators Cory Gardner (CO) and Joe Manchin (WV) introduced S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act on March 10, 2020. This legislation is a combination of two bills that have long been supported by ASLA, the LWCF Permanent Funding Act and the Restore Our Parks Act. On June 4, Representatives Joe Cunningham (SC) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) introduced companion language in the House of Representatives.

The Great American Outdoors Act would require Congress to fully and permanently fund LWCF at $900 million annually. It would also create the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restorations Fund. This fund would receive 50 percent of all energy development revenues not allocated to LWCF equaling up to $1.9 billion a year for 5 years. This fund would be split between NPS and the other federal land management agencies to help address their maintenance backlogs.

The fund would be split accordingly:
• 70 percent to the National Park Service
• 15 Percent to the U.S. Forest Service
• 5 percent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• 5 percent to the Bureau of Land Management
• 5 percent to the Bureau of Indian Educations
 
 
Recent Action

On July 22, 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act passed the United States House of Representatives by a 310-107 vote.

On June 17, 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act passed the United States Senate by a 75-23 vote.

On June 4, 2020, Representatives Joe Cunningham (SC) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA)  introduced H.R. 7092, the Great American Outdoors Act.


Sponsors

Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Cory Gardner (CO) and cosponsors.

Representatives Joe Cunningham (SC) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and cosponsors.
  

Contact

Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs
governmentaffairs@asla.org

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs
governmentaffairs@asla.org

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