Senate Passes Legislation to Permanently Fund LWCF, Provides Funding for National Parks

Senator Collins has long led efforts to preserve LWCF, our nation’s most successful conservation and outdoor recreation program.

Over the last five decades, Maine has received more than $191 million in funding from LWCF.

 

Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins to provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and to address the deferred maintenance backlog on our national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forest lands.  The legislation passed by a vote of 73 to 25 and will now be considered by the House of Representatives. 

 

Last week, Senator Collins spoke from the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to pass this important bipartisan legislation.

 

In addition to Senator Collins, the Great American Outdoors Act was introduced by Senators Angus King (I-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Richard Burr (R-NC), and has 59 Senate cosponsors.

 

Following bipartisan efforts by Senator Collins, this landmark legislation provides permanent and full funding for LWCF, and also includes the Restore Our Parks Act, which would address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks, including Acadia National Park.

 

“The Great American Outdoors Act will 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. Its funding has been used to open up key areas for hunting, fishing, and recreational access; support working forests and ranches; protect critical lands in national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests; and to support state and local projects, from ball parks to recreation trails.  It would also allow the National Park Service and other federal agencies to complete much-needed repairs and maintenance.”

 

"Maine’s identity is rooted in our natural places – and so is our economy,” said Kate Dempsey, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Our outdoor recreation industry and the communities it supports have suffered during this pandemic, and we need investment in conservation to protect our landscapes and get people back to work. We're grateful for Senator Collins’s consistent leadership and advocacy in the Senate for land conservation, and we hope today’s successful vote builds momentum for final passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the House.”

 

"We are thankful for the Maine Congressional delegation's support of this bipartisan bill that will fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as the deferred maintenance in our country's national parks," said Shawn Gorman, Executive Chairman and great grandson of L.L. Bean. "The outdoors provides many restorative benefits to our overall health and wellbeing and by passing the Great American Outdoors Act, more Americans will positively benefit from expanded access to our country's public spaces."

 

“Now, perhaps more than ever, Americans are showing how essential it is to be able to access public land and water for both physical and mental health,” said John Judge, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “AMC applauds the strong bipartisan support for the Great American Outdoors Act and urges swift passage to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the backlog of maintenance on our public lands. In doing so, Congress will support our nation’s vibrant recreation economy and local communities, and help ensure that everyone will be able to reach a park, forest, or trail near them to enjoy time in the outdoors that is truly restorative.”

 

Senator Collins has led efforts to support LWCF for more than a decade.  In 2005, Senator Collins, along with former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, led bipartisan efforts in the Senate to secure funding for the LWCF stateside program.

 

Last year, legislation to permanently authorize LWCF was enacted with Senator Collins’ strong support.  Additionally, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group in introducing legislation to permanently fund LWCF at $900 million per year.  LWCF has only been funded at its maximum authorization level of $900 million twice in its history.

 

Over the last five decades, Maine has received more than $191 million in funding from LWCF. Examples of LWCF funding include High Peaks - Crocker Mountain, a Forest Legacy project in Franklin County; and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, where an undeveloped 110-acre tract along the coast in Biddeford was preserved for natural habitat and expanded recreational access.  Of the more than 850 LWCF sites in Maine, 650 are community-based projects, from Riverside Park in Fort Kent to Haley Soccer Fields in Kittery.

 

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 Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog at our national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forest lands 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 $1.9 billion each year for the next five years.