Landmark conservation bill led by Sen. Heinrich fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and improves access to public lands
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) hailed the Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, bipartisan legislation he introduced to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make record investments in our outdoor economy. The bill includes a measure championed by Senator Heinrich to extend funding to address maintenance backlogs at all four public lands agencies and the Bureau of Indian Education.
“The Great American Outdoors Act creates thousands of jobs and a lasting outdoor heritage that we will all benefit from for decades to come. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of America's most successful conservation programs and has helped preserve many treasured places in New Mexico—including the Valles Caldera, Ute Mountain, and Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. LWCF also protects our drinking water, provides public land access, and ensures that every kid in America can easily access outdoor spaces near their home,” said Heinrich, who was part of a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to first announce the legislation in March. “Public lands are uniquely American and offer endless opportunities to explore our nation's natural and historical treasures, and significantly boost local economies in surrounding communities. I'm proud to help lead this bipartisan effort to fully and permanently fund LWCF and invest in the infrastructure that improves access and visitor experience to our National Parks and all our public lands for generations to come.”
These investments are critical to reigniting local economies across the nation, creating jobs, helping small businesses get back on their feet, and providing urgently needed stimulus to the outdoor recreation industry that generates more than 5.2 million American jobs and contributes $778 billion in national economic output each year. A fact sheet on the economic impact of the Great American Outdoors Act is available here.
A provision in the bill championed by Senator Heinrich would make $1.9 billion available each year for agency maintenance projects--$9.5 billion total--with 70 percent allocated for National Park Service projects, 15 percent for Forest Service, 5 percent for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5 percent for Bureau of Land Management, and 5 percent for Bureau of Indian Education schools.
Heinrich added, “In addition to the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the American people, and have deferred maintenance needs that deserve to be addressed. I’m also proud of our effort to provide much-needed funding to improve safety and address the maintenance backlog at the Bureau of Indian Education. Students across Indian Country deserve high-quality education in a safe environment where they can learn and thrive. For too long, many Bureau of Indian Education schools have needed construction and repairs.”
A copy of the bill is available here.
The Great American Outdoors Act is widely supported by the outdoor recreation industry, conservation and sportsmen organizations, and many others. More than 800 conservation groups sent a letter to congressional leadership supporting the passage of the bill, as well as six bipartisan former U.S. Secretaries of the Interior.
“The Senate’s passage of this legislation is a bright spot during an otherwise difficult time, as we are now one step closer to realizing the full potential of the nation’s premier conservation program,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director for New Mexico Wild. “Communities have called upon Congress to fully fund LWCF for decades because it supports everything from the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument to the construction of playground equipment in our city parks. As New Mexico gradually begins reopening, we are grateful to Senators Udall and Heinrich for their commitment to securing resources for our public lands.”
"Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks applauds the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Amidst a time of social change and a changing country, our protected public lands will continue to be a place for communities to come together. The Great American Outdoor Act guarantees that these lands will remain accessible for generations to come and continue to offer our communities a place to seek peace and solace,” said Patrick Nolan, Executive Director of the Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peak.
"It's particularly refreshing given the political climate in our nation today that we can see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together and support legislation to protect our environment and address critical needs at existing federal properties. With the purchase of the Valles Caldera National Preserve and other important properties around the state, the federation's membership has seen firsthand the power of this program to preserve critically important landscapes for both wildlife and for future generations," said Jesse Deubel, Executive Director of New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a truly historic conservation victory that will ensure that America’s public lands and treasured landscapes endure for future generations. It will also accelerate our economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis by creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs, while expanding outdoor recreational opportunities for every community in the country,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We are grateful for the bipartisan leadership of Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Gardner (R-Colo), Joe Manchin (D-WVa), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rob Portman and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to pass this legislation. We urge the House to act swiftly to pass the bill and send it to the President’s desk.”
“Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is a remarkable achievement in advancing historic bipartisan legislation for our national parks. The National Park Foundation commends Senator Heinrich for championing New Mexico’s national parks, and to protecting our nation’s conservation legacy through his leadership on this important legislation. GAOA will ensure that national parks receive the funding required to address deferred maintenance needs, remain accessible to all Americans, and continue to serve as economic engines for local communities in New Mexico and across the country,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation.
“The Great American Outdoors Act is the single greatest piece of conservation and outdoor recreation legislation before Congress in decades,” said Jessica Turner, Executive Director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Its overwhelmingly bipartisan passage in the Senate is proof that the outdoors crosses party lines and resonates with all Americans. We applaud Senate Republicans and Democrats — particularly Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and the other Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Restore our Parks Act sponsors — for working together tirelessly to get this done. The entire outdoor recreation industry thanks every Senator who supported this bill and urges the House to move quickly to mass this measure so we can finally fully fund LWCF and begin the much-needed work on rebuilding infrastructure on our public lands and waters.”
“Today’s vote is historic in many ways. It fulfills a promise we made 55 years ago to create a national legacy of investing in our natural resources. It also fixes our roads, trails, boat ramps, and recreational spaces so future generations can enjoy them. And it helps put Americans back to work through conservation at a time when unemployment rates are at near record levels. We want to thank Senator Heinrich for helping to push this bill through the Senate," said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.