House to Consider Great American Outdoors Act in July

June 23, 2020 Updated: June 23, 2020

The House of Representatives next month will debate and may seek to amend the Great American Outdoors Act, a proposal that would inject billions to maintain neglected national parks and permanently fund land and water conservation efforts, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.

“The House will consider the Great American Outdoors Act under a rule on the floor during the work period at the end of July. This bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 73–25, will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the maintenance backlog at our national parks,” Hoyer said June 22 in a statement.

The legislation, which was approved by the Senate last week, also has bipartisan backing in the House. Hoyer said he plans to bring up the measure under regular rules that would potentially allow for amendments and require longer debate time.

Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), along with 19 other House members, sent a letter (pdf) to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) asking “for an open amendment process during the upcoming debate on the Great American Outdoors Act.”

“Amongst the many provisions included in the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is now permanently reauthorized at $900 million a year, this bill sets that authorization funding on autopilot for generations to come,” the House members wrote. “Putting this massive federal program on auto, outside of congressional oversight, does not make fiscal or regulatory sense.”

“I look forward to seeing it pass the House with strong bipartisan support and being sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law,” Hoyer said.

President Donald Trump supports the bill in its current form and has said he’ll sign it.

If approved by the House, the measure will help finance a huge list of national park repairs nationwide.

In West Virginia, for example, funds are needed for maintenance of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, with a backlog of close to $19 million needed for upkeep and repairs.

The National Park Service’s maintenance total backlog amounts to almost $12 billion. In Virginia, Shenandoah National Park’s close to 200,000 acres needs $89 million in repairs.

Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), said her organization has been working for five years to have conservation legislation passed by Congress.

“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,”  Pierno said in a statement.

In May, more than 850 community advocates representing conservation organizations, local governments, and state and regional tourism boards urged congressional leaders to support the bill (pdf).

“The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure a future for nature to thrive, kids to play, and hunters and anglers to enjoy. National parks and public lands provide access to the outdoors for hundreds of millions of people every year and habitat for some of our country’s most iconic wildlife,” they wrote.