EDITOR’S NOTE: It appears as if the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is headed for an early June vote on Capitol Hill, according to the following release from the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). The bill, championed by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Steve Gaines (R-MN), among others, would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and invest in critical repair needs in national parks and on other public lands.
“During this difficult time for the outdoor industry, one bright spot has been Americans’ increased appreciation for time spent outside. A major congressional proposal that could help our nation’s economy, jobs and rural communities come back from this pandemic, and Americans safely experience all the outdoors has to offer, is the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA),” said Jessica (Wahl) Turner, ORR executive director. “We appreciate all of Gardner’s efforts, and many others’ support, to secure this vital vote on GAOA in early June. We urge all congressional members who care about small businesses, resilient communities and healthy people to vote for this legislation.”
“As Americans across the country emerge from stay at home orders, there is an intense desire to get back to our cherished national lands. The Great American Outdoors Act offers innovative solutions and sustainable funding that will address the deferred maintenance backlog and ensure the safety and enjoyment for Americans today and decades to come,” said RV Industry Association (RVIA) Vice President Jay Landers. “Campgrounds on federal lands are currently showing distressing signs of wear: crumbling roads and bridges; deferred maintenance needs; and limited camping availability, jeopardizing not only the RV industry but the entire outdoor recreation industry. We are grateful to the leadership of Sen. Gardner to address the needs of our public lands and support outdoor recreation.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act strikes the critical balance of expanding outdoor recreation access and conserving our nation’s public lands and waters – issues that are top of mind for millions of Americans who go boating each year,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “Thanks to the unwavering support and leadership from Sen. Cory Gardner and Sen. Joe Manchin, this historic legislation is on the verge of becoming the law of the land, and we encourage Congress to pass this commonsense measure in short order.”
“The outdoor industry applauds the U.S. Senate for seizing the opportunity to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) executive director. “Along with the social and health benefits that being outdoors provides, there is also a strong economic case for doing this now. The outdoors are bipartisan, and investing in LWCF means investing in local economies and creating thousands of jobs – both of which we desperately need right now to help the country bounce back from COVID-19.”
The GAOA is critical, its supporters claim, to help mitigate the surge in visitation to national parks across the country as restrictions are lifted, similar to the spike seen in the early days of stay-at-home orders. Americans are eager to get outdoors, and the GAOA will ensure these public lands and waters will have the funding needed to handle the increased visitation. LWCF projects will help create additional nearby access points for biking, hiking, camping, boating, or fishing. Infrastructure improvements – like better roads, updated facilities and modern docks and campgrounds – will make experiences on federal lands more enjoyable and safer in a social-distancing era.