March 10, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, led a bipartisan group of senators to introduce S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act, a landmark piece of legislation that will preserve and protect America’s public lands, with Senator Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) as an original cosponsor. The bipartisan legislation includes Senator King’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks, and provides permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In addition to Senator King and Senator Collins, the Great American Outdoors Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and has 54 Senate cosponsors.
“One hundred years from now, long after we’re gone and our names are forgotten, America’s natural treasures will endure – if we take care of them now,” said Senator King. “For too long, we’ve neglected our public lands and national parks. The $12 billion backlog facing our National Parks is no way to treat America’s greatest idea, and too often funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund becomes a political pawn caught in the middle of other issues. This legislation would right these wrongs, and take the necessary steps to make sure America’s natural beauty can be enjoyed by generations to come. We have a duty to protect these lands for our children and their children; today, for the first time in a long time, it looks like we may take a much-needed step to fulfill that responsibility.”
“The bipartisan bill we introduced would help to ensure both current and future generations can enjoy the pristine beauty of our natural resources in Maine and across the county,” said Senator Collins. “By providing guaranteed funding for LWCF, this legislation builds on our recent accomplishment of permanently reauthorizing our country’s most successful conservation and outdoor recreation program. It would also allow the National Park Service and other federal agencies to complete much-needed repairs and maintenance on federal lands. I urge our colleagues to join us in this effort to protect our nation’s natural treasures for the benefit of all Americans.”
“We are thrilled to see the Great American Outdoors Act moving forward in the Senate,” said Stephanie Clement, Conservation Director for Friends of Acadia. “The current replacement value for Acadia National Park’s buildings, roads, and other assets is more than a billion dollars. This important legislation would help the National Park Service address the $65 million backlog in deferred maintenance projects at Acadia, as well as acquire critical habitats on private lands inside the park boundary. We are grateful to Senator King and Senator Collins for their leadership and support on these important park issues.”
The Restore Our Parks Act, which was led by Senators King, Portman, Warner, and Alexander and co-sponsored by Senator Collins, would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. This consensus legislation was passed on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November. In September 2018, Senator King joined Acting NPS Director Dan Smith on a tour of Acadia National Park to assess the park’s critical maintenance need; the backlog at Acadia alone is estimated to be approximately $60 million.
Last year, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, permanently authorizing the LWCF, was signed into law with Senators Collins and King’s strong support. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Permanent Funding Act, which was co-sponsored by Senators Collins and King, would make $900 million available each year for the program for the first time without being subject to federal appropriations.