June 09, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate to highlight the importance of passing the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to support national parks and public lands across our nation. The bipartisan legislation includes Senator King’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks. A recent study by the National Park Service (NPS) found that the Restore Our Parks Act will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years. In addition, the legislation will provide permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
“Someday 100 years from now, a family will camp on a mesa in Utah, or a hillside in North Carolina, or a canyon in New Mexico, or they will hike the rocky coast of Maine,” said Senator King. “They’ll play on a ballfield in Kansas, and it will be because of the work that we’re going to do this week in this Congress. They won't know [legislation authors] King or Daines or Alexander or Portman or Warner, Manchin, or Gardner, or all the others that are going to support our efforts. Our names will be long forgotten, but what we do will be benefiting this country for generations. There are very few things we can do in our work here that are permanent. Bills can be repealed. Programs can be amended. Times change, and all can change with it – but what we are talking about this week in the Great American Outdoors Act is making a gift to our fellow Americans.
“Setting aside special places, setting aside opportunities for outdoors and recreation is a sacred trust, and it's one that goes back to the beginning of this country,” continued Senator King. “As I say, there is very little that we can do that’s permanent, but this is one of those things. It's the right thing to do, but it also makes sense from the economy's point of view in all of our states. Acadia National Park in Maine generates more than $300 million a year in economic activity in the surrounding communities. Our new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is already generating economic activity in the area where it is located. A visit to Maine to see the seacoast and the forest at those two sites would be rewarding for any family. And what we are doing today will enable families to continue to make these kinds of journeys, the next generation, and the next and the next. That family will see a sunrise on the coast of Maine, a sunset on a mesa in Arizona. They won't know who it was, but they will know what we did.”
Now included as a key component of the Great American Outdoors Act, Senator King first introduced the Restore Our Parks Act in July 2018 with Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mark Warner (D-Va.). The bipartisan legislation will 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. The backlog in Acadia National Park alone is estimated to be approximately $65 million.
In addition, the Great American Outdoors Act includes the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, legislation cosponsored by Senator King that would make $900 million available each year for the program for the first time without being subject to federal appropriations. This builds on the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which permanently authorizes the LWCF and was signed into law last year with Senator King’s strong support.