Congressional co-sponsors of Great American Outdoors Act speak out at Environment America virtual rally for public lands
WASHINGTON – A half-dozen members of Congress along with advocates from across the country came together for a virtual rally Thursday night in support of the Great American Outdoors Act. The bill, which would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at a level of $900 million annually and address the approximately $20 billion maintenance backlog on federal public lands, passed the Senate last week. It is expected to be voted on in the House in late July.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado joined the rally live to express the importance of this act. Reps. TJ Cox of California, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, and Steve Stivers of Ohio as well as Senate bill sponsor Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia also made recorded statements in support of the bill.
Rep. Neguse discussed how vital this bill is not only for those here today but also for future generations.
“At the end of the day, for me, I think about it through the prism of being a young father,” Rep. Neguse said. “I look forward to taking my daughter on hikes through Rocky Mountain National Park, just as my dad took me. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”
Sen. Manchin, lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, spoke to the broad bipartisan support for the bill, and commented on how a desire to protect our nation’s public lands for future generations unites us all as well.
“Passing the Great American Outdoors Act is an investment in our nation and our future generations, and will ensure our children and grandchildren can enjoy the wild and wonderful outdoor spaces of America for decades to come,” he said.
Rep. Torres Small reflected on the importance of public lands to southern New Mexico and the nation at large -- especially as the country is enduring the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve always needed our public lands,” she said. “They boost our economy, they connect us to the generations who came before us, and they provide an opportunity to relax, to marvel, and to learn about our natural world. As we work to rebuild our country and heal from this pandemic, we’ve never needed our public lands more.”
In California, LWCF has funded more than 1,000 park projects. To that end, Rep. TJ Cox expressed the importance of public space in his California district.
“It's vital that we address or parks maintenance backlog and find permanent funding so more of our beautiful parks and outdoor recreation areas like Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park, The Pixley National Wildlife Refuge, Heritage Park in Lemoore and the Hanford Sports Complex can continue to serve so many of us with shared space that everyone in the Central Valley can enjoy,” he said.
A longtime supporter of LWCF, Rep. Stivers indicated how the Great American Outdoors Act is a win-win for all Americans.
“During my time I've always been a huge supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Rep Stivers said. “It’s time we make the funding permanent … It’s a great example of how environmental stewardship can go hand-in-hand with resource management, conservation and recreation.”
Rep. Mikie Sherrill spoke about on how those in her densely populated home state of New Jersey appreciate the value of programs like LWCF.
“We know how important it is to conserve our outdoor spaces and protect our drinking water,” she said.
Environment America Conservation Program Senior Director Steve Blackledge said he is hopeful the bill will pass.
"Americans absolutely love the great outdoors, and we need Congress to get the Great American Outdoors Act across the finish line.” Blackledge said. “We're excited that House members from both parties are working to do just that.”
Along with Environment America’s Blackledge, other participants in the rally were: Albert Arevalo from Latino Outdoors and Nadav Sprague from Gateway to the Great Outdoors as well as Environment New Mexico’s John Ammondson, Environment Maryland’s Kate Breimann, Environment Colorado’s Hannah Collazo, Environment California’s Dan Jacobson, Environment New Jersey’s Doug O’Malley, Environment America’s Alex Petersen and Environment Missouri’s Bridget Sanderson.
Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.