Somewhat lost in the news cycle due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, there was what appears to be great news for outdoor lovers like us and our RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers.
That's because on March 9, a bevy of bipartisan senators introduced a bill set out to dramatically change the funding landscape of public lands over the next five years.
The Great American Outdoors Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Joe Manchin. D-West Virginia, Steve Daines, R-Montana, Mark Warner, D-Virginia, Angus King, I-Maine, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois.
The new legislation combines the former Restore Our Parks bill (which we talked about in a 2018 podcast that can be found here) with a bill that sets out to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This combination allowed senators room to add additional and much-needed funding for the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education.
The bill includes $900 million for the LWCF and $1.9 billion annually to address maintenance backlogs in the aforementioned agencies. A full breakdown of the agency funds follows:
- 70% for the National Park Service
- 15% for the U.S. Forest Service
- 5% for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- 5% for the Bureau of Land Management
- 5% for the Bureau of Indian Education
This effort would not only help American outdoor recreation through dedicated LWCF funding but also to shake the dust off of a $12 billion maintenance backlog that continues to build each year within the National Park Service.
“The Restore Our Parks Act offers innovative solutions and sustainable funding that will address the deferred-maintenance backlog on federal lands, which is critical to improving and expanding national campgrounds,” said RV Industry Association President Craig Kirby in a release. “Campgrounds on federal lands are currently showing distressing signs of wear: crumbling roads and bridges; deferred maintenance needs; and limited camping availability, jeopardizing not only the RV industry but the entire outdoor recreation industry. We are encouraged by the support of this legislation and ask Congress to pass this bill without delay.”
“America’s national parks and public lands are cherished by not just Illinois families, but families from around the world — so we should do everything we can to preserve and protect them for generations to come while making them more accessible for all,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Senators Durbin, Gardner and Manchin to introduce this important bipartisan legislation to finally address the $12 billion maintenance backlog and fully fund the program responsible for maintaining—and improving accessibility at—our nation’s public lands.”
“America’s great outdoors are part of the heritage and beauty of our nation,” said Burr. “That’s why we must do everything we can to protect, maintain, and preserve them. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has a proven track record of success, but if we don’t fully fund it, we risk the loss of natural landscapes and easy access to state and national parks. I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this significant bipartisan legislation, and I look forward to its passage so we can ensure these national treasures are enjoyed for generations to come.”
The bill has been referred to a house committee for further evaluation.