The Senate has approved a bipartisan bill that would double spending on a conservation program and devote nearly $3 billion a year to improve and maintain national parks.
The 73-25 vote on Wednesday sends the Great American Outdoors Act to the House, where approval is expected.
It would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. The bill would spend about $2.8 billion per year on conservation, outdoor recreation and park maintenance.
“America’s hundreds of millions of acres of public lands are the result of hundreds of years of exploration and conservation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell said.
The Senate vote will “ensure this inheritance will stand the test of time for generations of Americans yet to come,” McConnell said, urging the House to pass it quickly.
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the bill’s chief sponsors, said the bill will create at least 100,000 jobs while restoring national parks and repairing trails and forest systems.
Those measures are especially needed now, when communities surrounded by public lands have high unemployment rates because of shutdowns, Gardner said.
“This is an economic and jobs package as much as it is a conservation package,” he said, adding that Americans who have been shut in for months ”are ready to get into the great outdoors.’’
Republican Sen. Steven Daines of Montana, who has pushed for the bill with Gardner, said it “will help protect public access to our public lands and supports our national parks. It preserves and protects our Montana outdoor way of life.”
Gardner and Daines each represent states where tourism at sites such as Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone national parks play an important economic role.
Trump has tweeted in favor of the bill, saying it “will be HISTORIC for our beautiful public lands.”
I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks. When I sign it into law, it will be HISTORIC for our beautiful public lands. ALL thanks to @SenCoryGardner and @SteveDaines, two GREAT Conservative Leaders!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2020
Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico said permanently and fully funding that fund “will be a monumental victory for conservation and the places where we all get outside.”
He cited studies showing that each dollar spent by the fund creates an additional four dollars in economic value.
Heinrich said visitors cannot enjoy national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite “if the bathrooms don’t work, if the trails and campgrounds aren’t open, or if the roads are in disrepair. These places that we all cherish deserve better.”
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington credited a “new coalition” of lawmakers from both parties who support conservation and public lands.
“We’ve made people aware of the juggernaut that the outdoors economy has been,″ Cantwell said, noting statistics showing that outdoor recreation and tourism account for $887 billion a year in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs, much of it in the West.
“America deserves a break right now, and the outdoors is restorative,″ Cantwell said.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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