On the Hill: Senate (and the House) Passes Historic Parks and Public Lands Bill (Updated 7/22/20)

By Special Contributor posted 06-17-2020 14:41

Editor's Note:  After Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act on June 17, 2020, the National Trust turned our attention to the House where we worked closely with key stakeholders in preparation for a House vote. In a few short weeks, the House companion bill (H.R. 7092) garnered 250 cosponsors and a vote on the Great American Outdoors Act was scheduled for the House floor. On July 22, 2020, the House overwhelmingly passed the bill by a strong bipartisan vote of 310-107 , sending the bill to the President for his signature and enactment into law. Please thank your senators and representatives that supported this once-in-a-generation, multi-billion dollar investment that preserves and protects historic and cultural resources in our parks and on public lands.

This week, the Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation that will provide the greatest investment in historic and cultural resources on our public lands in more than a generation. The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which passed with bipartisan support by of vote of 73-25 on June 17, will invest up to $9.5 billion to repair historic and other assets of the National Park Service (NPS) and other federal agencies. It will also fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually to help our public lands continue to grow to tell fuller American stories and provide greater access to our shared cultural heritage.
Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Senate Deliberations Highlight the Landmark Great American Outdoors Act

The Senate officially began consideration of the bill on Wednesday, June 10 after clearing a key procedural vote earlier in the week by a vote of 80-17. Broad bipartisan support for the bill and an outpouring of advocacy from a wide array of constituencies helped overcome attendance challenges and brought numerous senators to the Floor to deliver speeches about the importance of our national parks and public lands as part of our shared heritage, as economic drivers for local communities, and as places of healing and reflection. The commitment to passing the bill was particularly evident when Senators rallied for a vote after 1 am on June 12 as a small number of senators exercised their prerogative to extend the process.

Introduced by Senators Corey Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) on March 9, 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act is supported by more than 850 preservation, business, outdoor, tourism, conservation, recreation and hunting groups who sent a letter to Congress urging the passage of this act. This month, six former Secretaries of the Interior endorsed the GAOA and joined the chorus of voices supporting the landmark bill.

The bill will make significant strides toward addressing the nearly $12 billion NPS deferred maintenance backlog, of which 47% is for historic assets. Additionally, permanent full funding of the LWCF will ensure that the source of funds used to protect such iconic places as Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Valley Forge National Historical Park will continue. This historic legislation will ensure that current and future generations can enjoy the iconic places where people and events shaped our nation’s history.

Next Stop: House of Representatives

The Great American Outdoors Act now moves to the House, where on June 4, identical legislation was introduced by Representative Joe Cunningham (D-SC) and 11 other bipartisan sponsors. While exact timing for House floor action on the bill remains uncertain due to several other legislative priorities, both pieces of legislation combined to form the GAOA (the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act with 329 cosponsors and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act with 232 cosponsors) separately enjoy enormous bipartisan support.

Take Action

After years of advocacy, preservationists have successfully made the case that establishing a dedicated fund to tackle the deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service and other federal agencies and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund will benefit our nation’s historic and cultural resources by providing jobs, boosting economic activity, and preserving iconic historic places.

With a crowded legislative agenda and limited time on the congressional calendar, we need your advocacy to help secure a House vote and get this bill to the President’s desk!

Please contact your Representative and ask that they cosponsor the House companion bill (H.R. 7092), support a clean bill with no amendments, and vote YES when the bill reaches the House floor. You can also share this summary that highlights the ways that enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act will benefit our nation’s historic and cultural resources


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