Protecting the Great American Outdoors

One of Senator Gardner’s top priorities representing Colorado in the U.S. Senate is to ensure our public lands will be protected for future generations to cherish. The U.S. Senate just passed his bipartisan bill, the Great American Outdoors Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 73-25. The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

The Great American Outdoors Act

The Great American Outdoors Act is a historic opportunity to protect our public lands while providing jobs and economic opportunities to communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. This landmark, bipartisan conservation legislation would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the growing maintenance backlog on National Parks and other federal lands. This will benefit every single state and ensure that the lands we treasure can be enjoyed by future generations.

About the Great American Outdoors Act:

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Economic Benefits

Full, Permanent Funding for the LWCF

The LWCF is the crown jewel of conservation programs and has increased access for Americans everywhere to hunt, fish, camp, and enjoy recreation activities on their public lands. It has protected and expanded access for conservation in all 50 states, the territories, and nearly every county. Here in Colorado, the LWCF has provided more than $278 million to support conservation efforts.

But despite the program’s wide bipartisan support, the LWCF has only received full funding of $900 million twice in its entire history. The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure the LWCF receives the full $900 million each and every year.

Learn more about how the LWCF has benefitted every state.

Restoring our Parks and Federal Lands

Maintenance projects on federal lands across the country have been deferred, including more than $500 million worth of projects in Colorado.

The Great American Outdoors Act will address the growing maintenance backlog on federally managed lands - which has now ballooned to approximately $20 billion on federal lands nationwide. In Colorado alone, the backlog of maintenance projects has reached over $500 million on land managed by the federal government. These projects include trails, roads, bridges, buildings, and other repairs that are ready to begin - we just need to properly fund them. Doing so will create jobs, investments, and economic activity in the areas of Colorado that have been decimated by the pandemic-caused shutdown of travel.

Learn more about the national maintenance backlog at our National Parks.

Here you can find a breakdown of the maintenance backlog by state and park.

Creating Jobs and Boosting the Economy

The Great American Outdoors Act will create more than 100,000 jobs nationwide, including in some of the communities where they are needed most. Our mountain towns were hit hard by COVID-19 as the ski season ended early, restaurants closed, and hotels emptied. The Great American Outdoors Act will provide billions of dollars in funding for new jobs across Colorado and the country while protecting our public lands.

A new report from the National Park Service shows that more than 327 million visitors traveled to National Parks in 2019, contributing $41.7 billion to the economy. This report shows what every Coloradan already knows to be true – our public lands and our National Parks are a crucial part of our economy and we must ensure they are receiving the resources necessary to keep up with their popular demand.

 

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Widespread Support

The Great American Outdoors Act has earned broad, widespread support - including from six bipartisan former U.S. Secretaries of the Interior, more than 850 conservation groups, and 43 sportsmen and sportswomen groups.

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

American Society of Civil Engineers

American Whitewater

API

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Association of California Water Agencies

Colorado Businesses Support Letter

Colorado Canyons Association

Evangelical Environmental Network

Forest Climate Working Group

Forest Landowners

Grassland Water District

Highway Construction Industry

International Franchise Association

League of Conservation Voters

LWCF Coalition

National Parks Conservation Association

Outdoor Businesses

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

Pew Charitable Trusts

REI

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association – Colorado Chapter

Sierra Club

Sportsmen and Sportswomen Letter

Theodore Roosevelt IV

Trout Unlimited

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

VoteVets

The Wilderness Society

Timeline

  • On June 17, the U.S. Senate passed Gardner’s bipartisan bill, the Great American Outdoors Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 73-25.
  • Theodore Roosevelt IV, the great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, urged passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in June 2020.
  • A new report from the National Park Service released in June 2020 highlighted the popularity of our National Parks and the significant contributions they make to the economy, as Congress considers Gardner’s legislation to address the $20 billion maintenance backlog on federal public lands.
  • In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Gardner explained how the Great American Outdoors Act will boost Colorado’s economy and create thousands of jobs. To express what public lands mean to him, to Coloradans, and people all across our country, Gardner shared the story of Amache, a World War II Japanese-American internment camp he is pushing for Amache’s inclusion in the National Park System.
  • Outdoor recreation businesses wrote to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer in June 2020 in support of the Great American Outdoors Act, saying it would “support communities in all 50 states, support rural economies, create jobs to carry out essential work, and provide opportunities for millions of Americans to recreate on our public lands and waters for generations to come.”
  • In June 2020, Gardner led a bipartisan group of senators in calling for passage of the Great American Outdoors Act on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act in June 2020.
  • Six bipartisan former U.S. Secretaries of the Interior, including Coloradans Ken Salazar and Gale Norton, urged swift passage of Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act in June 2020.
  • In May 2020, Gardner secured confirmation that the U.S. Senate would consider his Great American Outdoors Act in June.
  • In May 2020, more than 800 conservation groups sent a letter to congressional leadership supporting the passage of Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act.
  • In April 2020, Gardner and other members of the Colorado congressional delegation called on leaders of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House to consider including Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act in future COVID-19 legislation.
  • The day after introducing the Great American Outdoors Act, Gardner discussed this historic legislationwith U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt at a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
  • In March 2020, Gardner introduced the Great American Outdoors Act to fully and permanently fund the LWCF and immediately address the nearly $20 billion in maintenance backlog at our public lands.
  • In March 2020, Colorado-based businesses and organizations called on Congress to pass Gardner’s legislation to fully and permanently fund the LWCF.
  • A broad group of conservation leaders in Colorado and around the country praised Senators Gardner and Daines for securing President Trump’s support for full and permanent LWCF funding and addressing the maintenance backlog on federal lands in March 2020.
  • Senators Gardner and Daines held a bipartisan press conference in March 2020 announcing they secured President Trump’s support for bipartisan legislation to provide full and permanent funding for the LWCF and address the $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks.
  • Gardner helped secure $495 million for the LWCF in December 2019, the highest funding level in more than 15 years.
  • Conservation groups in Colorado and across the country praised Gardner’s efforts to secure full and permanent funding for the LWCF in November 2019.
  • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed S. 1081, the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act in November 2019, a bill introduced by Gardner that will make the full funding of LWCF mandatory every fiscal year.
  • In November 2019, Gardner received ConservAmerica’s “Congressional Champion” award for his strong record promoting conservation policies.
  • In October 2019, Gardner and a bipartisan group of Senators introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill to fully fund the LWCF.
  • The first ever state-level data on the outdoor recreation economy was released in September 2019, as a direct result of the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (REC Act), introduced by Senators Gardner and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). President Obama signed the Outdoor REC Act into law in 2016.
  • Senators Gardner and Michael Bennet (D-CO) called on the leaders of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to include full, permanent funding for the LWCF in the fiscal year 2020 funding agreement in September 2019.
  • Gardner, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), and a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act in April 2019 to permanently fund the LWCF at $900 million every year.
  • Gardner received the 2019 National Park Heritage Award in April 2019 from the National Parks Conservation Association for his leadership in the signing into law of S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which included permanent reauthorization of the LWCF.
  • In 2019, Gardner led the fight to pass and have signed into law by the President S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which included a Gardner-sponsored bill to permanently reauthorize the LWCF.
  • In November 2018, Gardner held a press conference with other LWCF champions in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives calling for the reauthorization and fully funding of America’s most important conservation program.
  • In October 2018, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed both the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act, to fully fund and permanently reauthorize the LWCF, and the Restore our Park Act in October 2018. Gardner was a cosponsor of both pieces of legislation.
  • Gardner and 12 bipartisan colleagues in the U.S. Senate urged the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the LWCF in August 2018 before it was set to expire.
  • In July 2018, Gardner and a bipartisan group of colleagues introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill to permanently authorize the LWCF before it was set to expire.
  • In a July 2018 op-ed in the Denver Post, Senators Gardner and Michael Bennet (D-CO) touted the importance of the LWCF to Colorado and said, “It is time for Congress to stop the serial, short-term extensions of this program and make LWCF permanent with the full dedicated funding it deserves.”
  • At a bipartisan LWCF press conference in June 2018, Gardner promoted the 100-day campaign to make the LWCF’s authorization permanent.
  • In a May 2018 op-ed in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Gardner touted the importance of the LWCF as well as addressing the growing maintenance backlog on federal public lands.
  • Gardner introduced legislation to permanently reauthorize the LWCF with a bipartisan group of colleagues in April 2017.
  • In September 2016, Gardner and several of his colleagues wrote to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) requesting that permanent reauthorization of the LWCF be included in any final legislation that emerged from the energy bill conference.
  • In February 2016, Gardner spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which included permanent reauthorization of the LWCF.
  • In November 2015, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed permanent reauthorization of the LWCF with Gardner’s support.
  • Gardner and bipartisan colleagues sent a letter to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid in November 2015 urging that permanent reauthorization of the LWCF be included in any must-pass year end legislation.
  • Gardner pressed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid for permanent reauthorization of the LWCF in September 2015.
  • In April 2015 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the LWCF, which Gardner called “the nation’s most important conservation program.”
  • Gardner voted in favor of an amendment to permanently reauthorize the LWCF in his first month in the Senate.