U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act by an overwhelming 310-107 bipartisan vote. The Senate passed the legislation 73-25 on June 17, and the bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
The legislation includes the “Restore Our Parks Act” that Senator Alexander first introduced in 2018 and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which President Reagan’s ’s Commission on Americans Outdoors recommended in 1985 when Senator Alexander was its chairman.
“The Great American Outdoors Act is the most important conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in the last half century, and now it is headed to the president’s desk for his signature,” said Senator Alexander. “Today, too many of our national parks are in bad shape, and American families visiting those parks are often shocked to find that so many of the roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers are in such bad condition or even closed. This bipartisan bill will cut in half the $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks, including $224 million in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It will also reduce maintenance backlogs at our national forests and refuges.
“Here is what this means for Tennessee – places like Look Rock Campground in the Smokies, which has been closed for several years because the sewage system doesn’t work, will have the resources needed to reopen so the 5,000 families who camp there each year can continue to enjoy it. And the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee, which suffers from a $27 million deferred maintenance backlog and welcomes more visitors each year than most of the western national parks, will have its roads and trails restored. And then in West Tennessee, the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, which has about $8 million of maintenance work that needs to be done on boat ramps and boat docks, will receive the support it needs as well.”
Senator Alexander continued, “It will also fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an unrealized goal of Congress and the conservation community since 1964. Fully funding the LWCF was also a recommendation of President Reagan’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, which I chaired in 1985.”
Senator Alexander concluded, “None of this would be possible without the strong support of President Trump and so many Democrat and Republican members of Congress. In the midst of all the bad things that are going on today, this is a good thing. I’m glad Congress has been able to work together to pass this important bill, and I look forward to the president signing it into law.”
The Great American Outdoors Act fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund permanently. The LWCF has played a large role in protecting the outdoors. In Tennessee, the LWCF has provided about $221.4 million for conservation and outdoor recreation efforts since the 1960’s. This legislation also includes the Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that Senator Alexander says would be the single biggest help to the National Park System in 50 years. It will cut in half the maintenance backlog at the country’s 419 national parks, making $6.5 billion available over the next five years to fix roads, campsites and hiking trails so Americans can enjoy them. The bill also provides funding to reduce maintenance backlogs for four other federal land management agencies: The U.S. Forest Service; The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; The Bureau of Land Management; The Bureau of Indian Education.