As previously reported by NYLCV, there is strong bipartisan support from a group of 59 US Senators, including the Majority and Minority Leaders, as well as President Trump, for a bill known as The Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422). The bill, if passed, would provide full dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the maintenance backlog facing America’s national parks and other public lands.
While Congress has been focused on passing emergency relief bills addressing the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19, the next wave of bills is likely to include broader economic stimulus including infrastructure provisions. NYLCV and its partners believe that the Great American Outdoors Act could fit into one such package. Recently there have been strong demonstrations of public and governmental support which have raised the profile of this effort.
On May 11, hundreds of groups representing state and regional tourism, local businesses, veterans groups, engineering and planning firms, conservation organizations (including NYLCV), and the outdoor recreation industry called for Congress to pass the Great American Outdoors Act. “The conservation of our lands and waters is not an optional amenity but the cornerstone of thriving economies,” said Tom Cors, director of government relations for lands at The Nature Conservancy and a spokesman for the LWCF Coalition in the press release. “Fully funding LWCF and addressing maintenance needs in national parks and on public lands will help protect important natural spaces, create jobs, and expand outdoor recreation opportunities nationwide. The Great American Outdoors Act is the kind of effective, on-the-ground investment our economy will need as we work to recover from this crisis.”
A bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter signed by members of the US House was also released on May 11 in support of the Great American Outdoors Act being included as part of an upcoming economic stimulus package. Led by Reps. Neguse (D-CO), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Cunningham (D-SC), and Kilmer (D-WA), members of the US House were asked over a two-business-day period to sign on the letter urging Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Pelosi to support the outdoor recreation industry that serves as the economic engine for many of our local communities.
According to the letter, “The outdoor recreation industry is an important economic driver across the country, supporting 5.2 million jobs nationally and contributing 2.2 percent to our national Gross Domestic Product. However, like other sectors tied to travel and tourism, outdoor businesses are enduring the unprecedented economic impact of COVID-19, facing dramatically decreased sales and revenue, difficulties with production and distribution, and large numbers of furloughs and layoffs. The recovery and continued success of the outdoor industry are closely tied to our public lands and waters. As COVID-19 continues to place unexpected burdens on local and county budgets, federal investment in parks and public lands will aid the recovery of communities that rely on a strong outdoor recreation economy.
In all, 118 members of the US House signed this letter and NYLCV is grateful for the burst of bipartisan support from the following 18 members of the New York delegation: Lee Zeldin, Peter King, Tom Suozzi, Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez, Jerry Nadler, Carolyn B. Maloney, Adriano Espaillat, Eliot Engel, Sean Patrick Maloney, Antonio Delgado, Paul D. Tonko, Elise Stefanik, Anthony Brindisi, John Katko, Joe Morelle, and Brian Higgins.
Stay tuned for future updates on this campaign. For more information, please visit the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition website.