LANGHORNE, PA—Today, June 4th, 2020, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) joined a bipartisan group of Members in introducing H.R. 7092, the Great American Outdoors Act. This landmark legislation would fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and work to repair maintenance issues in our national parks.
The LWCF is the nation’s premier recreation and preservation support program. It is the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation of our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, Civil War battlefields, state and local parks, working forests, and critical wildlife areas. This program is authorized by Congress, the LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars. Instead, it is supported entirely by a portion of oil and gas royalties, making it a responsible, practical method to protect our nation’s natural landscape and ecological diversity. In 2019, Members of Congress were successful in permanently reauthorizing the LWCF.
“Since its establishment over 50 years ago, the LWCF has promoted recreational activity and conserving our national parks, forests, and critical wildlife areas. This vital program benefits millions of Americans in innumerable ways, from promoting recreational activity to contributing to our Nation's robust economy, along with furthering environmental protection. Treasured public lands such as Nockamixon State Park, Tyler State Park, and cherished community venues such as Hatfield Community Park are all just a few of the examples of the beneficiaries of this valuable fund. I am encouraged by the strong bipartisan support for permanent funding of the LWCF,” said Fitzpatrick. “The Great American Outdoors Act would also address the $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks and public lands. Today, our national parks and public lands are in rough shape. Families who travel to our public lands are often met by roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds, and visitor centers that are damaged, run-down, or closed. This landmark legislation would preserve and protect our nation’s public lands for generations, and I am proud to support this legislation.”
In addition to funding the LWCF, the Great American Outdoors Act would provide funding to address the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national park sites throughout the country. For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country. Federal land management agencies are facing a deferred maintenance backlog that is wreaking havoc on agency budgets and jeopardizing the safety and quality of visitors’ enjoyment of our national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands. The growing maintenance backlog on public lands could cause detrimental economic impacts. Our public lands generate $18.2 billion of economic activity for gateway communities and support 306,000 jobs. This funding would provide much-needed relief to our parks and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.
This legislation was introduced as companion legislation to S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act, which was introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). The House bill was introduced by Reps. Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Joe Cunningham (SC-01), Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), TJ Cox (CA-21), John Katko (NY-24), Jared Golden (ME-02), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Kendra Horn (OK-05), Steve Stivers (OH-15), Mike Sherrill (NJ-11), Lee Zeldin (NY-01), and Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02).
Fitzpatrick has long championed for permanently funding the LWCF and protecting public lands. In September of 2018, Fitzpatrick spoke on the House floor calling on Congress to permanently reauthorize the LWCF. In November of 2018, Fitzpatrick joined a bipartisan and bicameral group of Members of Congress in a rally on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, joining conservation leaders and outdoor recreation advocates. In June of 2019, Fitzpatrick joined a bipartisan coalition of Members of the House of Representatives in introducing the Land and Water Conversation Fund Permanent Funding Act. In December of 2019, Fitzpatrick and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02) wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lawmakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey must prioritize protecting national parks. In May of 2020, Fitzpatrick joined over 100 legislators to request strong funding in future COVID-19 economic relief legislation for federal programs that serve as the foundation of the outdoor recreation, a critical sector that provides jobs and economic support to communities across the country.