06.03.20

Former Secretaries of the Interior Urge Swift Passage of Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act

Landmark conservation bill would fully fund the LWCF, address maintenance backlog on public lands

Washington, D.C. – Today six bipartisan former U.S. Secretaries of the Interior, including Coloradans Ken Salazar and Gale Norton, wrote to the leadership of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives urging swift passage of U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) Great American Outdoors Act, which fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and addresses the approximately $20 billion maintenance backlog on federal public lands. 

“Our public lands benefit the entire country and enjoy broad, bipartisan support. Today’s letter from six former Secretaries of the Interior, spanning 26 years of leadership at the Department of the Interior, expressing support for my bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act shows just how historic and monumental this legislation is for the nation,” said Senator Gardner. “It’s certainly exciting to see two Coloradans on this letter – Secretaries Salazar and Norton. I look forward to the Senate taking up this landmark conservation legislation next week, and I will continue to fight to get this bill to the President’s desk in order to provide economic and job opportunities when we need them most and ensure we preserve our public lands for future generations to cherish.”

“During our time as Secretaries of the Interior, we had the privilege and responsibility of stewarding some of America’s most incredible landscapes and natural and cultural treasures. Now, more than ever, we are all cognizant of the critical role of public lands in our lives, as places to recreate, to recharge and to seek solace in the midst of great uncertainty—and, also, to create jobs,” wrote the former Secretaries of the Interior. “The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that our parks and other public lands are maintained and enhanced so that they can continue to provide these critical benefits for generations to come.”

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

During our time as Secretaries of the Interior, we had the privilege and responsibility of stewarding some of America’s most incredible landscapes and natural and cultural treasures. Now, more than ever, we are all cognizant of the critical role of public lands in our lives, as places to recreate, to recharge and to seek solace in the midst of great uncertainty—and, also, to create jobs.

Together, we write to strongly urge swift passage and enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) without any amendments. This bill (and its expected House companion) is critically needed to support the public lands upon which all Americans rely. The Great American Outdoors Act will advance the protection of America’s special places and invest in the repair and restoration of deteriorating infrastructure. The bill will help address priority repairs in our National Parks and on other public lands by directing up to $9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance needs within the National Park System, other public land agencies, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. It will also fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation’s most important conservation program, as authorized at $900 million every year to ensure protection of and access to our public lands.

The Great American Outdoors Act will help ensure a better, brighter future for nature and for all of us. As Secretaries, we have all experienced how public lands managed by the Department provide vital functions like wildlife habit while preserving water quantity and quality, sustaining working landscapes and rural economies, increasing access for recreation opportunities, and stimulating the outdoor economy. Nationally, outdoor recreation contributes roughly $778 billion in consumer spending and supports 5.2 million jobs. The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that our parks and other public lands are maintained and enhanced so that they can continue to provide these critical benefits for generations to come.

We are pleased to see strong bipartisan support from the House and Senate—and from the President—for the Great American Outdoors Act. Americans need these public lands. And Americans need your continued leadership to deliver this historic legislation into law.

Sincerely,

Ryan Zinke

Secretary of the Interior 2017-2019

Sally Jewell 

Secretary of the Interior 2013-2017

Ken Salazar

Secretary of the Interior 2009-2013

Dirk Kempthorn

Secretary of the Interior 2006-2009

Gale Norton

Secretary of the Interior 2001-2006

Bruce Babbitt

Secretary of the Interior 1993-2001

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.