Golden, Bipartisan Group Introduce Bill to Permanently Fund LWCF, Tackle Maintenance Backlog at Acadia
Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) and 11 of his colleagues introduced the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act in the House of Representatives today. The landmark bill, companion legislation to a bill expected to be taken up in the Senate next week, would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provide funding for the long-overdue maintenance backlog at Acadia National Park.
“Public lands have always been critical to the Maine economy and our way of life,” said Congressman Golden. “But now more than ever, we have recognized just how essential our parks, hunting areas, trail systems, and other public lands are for our health and wellbeing as we weather the COVID-19 crisis. I’m introducing the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act with 11 of my colleagues today to improve and protect public lands in our state. Our legislation finally addresses long-overdue improvements at Acadia and other national parks, and ensures that LWCF continues to create and maintain public lands across Maine for decades to come.”
The legislation would permanently fund LWCF and provide $9.5 billion dollars over five years to address the U.S. Park Service’s most pressing maintenance and repair issues. Funds would come from revenues collected from energy development on public lands.
Golden has worked to protect and promote Maine’s public lands during his first term in Congress. Last summer, he visited Acadia National Park to speak with the park’s superintendent about the backlog, view some of the deferred projects first-hand, and champion legislation to address the maintenance. The U.S. National Park Service estimated that in 2018, Acadia had nearly $66 million in deferred maintenance. In March, he introduced a bill with Senator Angus King to provide Gold Star Families with free access to Acadia National Park and other federally managed public lands.
A bipartisan companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME). The legislation enjoys significant bipartisan support in both chambers, as well as support from President Trump.
Environmental and conservation groups across Maine announced their support for the bill.
“Protecting outdoor spaces is a smart investment in the long-term health of Maine’s people and environment,” said Emmie Theberge, Federal Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been an essential tool for protecting some of Maine’s most treasured landscapes and supporting local municipal projects that get people outside. We thank Congressman Golden for introducing the bipartisan bill that will finally ensure permanent and dedicated funding for LWCF while also addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance in our National Parks and National Forests.”
“As stay-at-home orders begin to lift, the Great American Outdoors Act will bolster recreation dependent communities as people seek to get outside, away from crowds, and practice safe social distancing in the coming months. Through full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this bill will provide certainty for Maine communities who are eager to invest in close-to-home park infrastructure, create opportunities for public access to the outdoors, and support the recreation economy. We thank Rep. Golden for joining with a bipartisan group of representatives to introduce permanent, dedicated funding for this vital program.” - Maureen Drouin, Maine Conservation Voters
“Acadia National Park has experienced underfunding for decades in its efforts to maintain hundreds of assets that are critical to the public’s enjoyment of the park, such as trails, roads, bridges, buildings, and water systems,” said David MacDonald, President of Friends of Acadia. “And as the work has been put off year after year, the tab for addressing this deferred maintenance at Acadia has grown to more than $65 million. The Great American Outdoors Act would boost the federal resources available for timely investment in national parks like Acadia and the communities and visitors who benefit from them. The legislation would also ensure support for the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which has been essential to land protection efforts at Acadia. FOA is grateful to Congressman Golden for introducing this bill in the House, and we pledge to assist in any way possible in its passage and implementation.”
"Katahdin region communities are eager to see the economic benefit from our new national monument, and this bill will help ensure that infrastructure is maintained so visitors to Katahdin Woods and Waters have a safe, enjoyable experience and spread the word about the beauty to behold beyond the park gates, now and in the future. We're grateful for Congressman Golden's leadership on the Great American Outdoors Act and supporting our public lands." - Andrew Bossie, Executive Director of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters
“Those of us in the outdoor industry have long viewed Maine’s outdoors as an unrivaled asset, and the importance of the outdoors is becoming even clearer now as Mainers seek more time outside. We believe that outdoor recreation can play a significant role in helping Maine’s economy and people recover and rebound, which is why passing the Great American Outdoors Act is so necessary and so timely,” said Jenny Kordick, Executive Director of Maine Outdoor Brands
"From our forested trails to our iconic coastline, Maine’s identity is rooted in our natural places – and so is our economy,” said Kate Dempsey, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “This pandemic has taken a toll on our outdoor recreation industry and the communities it supports, and we need investment in conservation to protect our treasured landscapes and get people back to work. We're grateful for Congressman Golden’s leadership in introducing the House bill, and we look forward to working with him to pass the Great AmericanOutdoors Act."
“Now, perhaps more than ever, Americans are showing how essential it is to be able to access public land and water for both physical and mental health,” said John Judge, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “AMC applauds the strong bipartisan support for the Great American Outdoors Act and urges swift passage to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the backlog of maintenance on our public lands. In doing so, Congress will support our nation’s vibrant recreation economy and local communities, and help ensure that everyone will be able to reach a park, forest, or trail near them to enjoy time in the outdoors that is truly restorative.”
“This historic introduction of the Great American Outdoors Act in the U.S. House of Representatives is critical to America’s environmental and economic vitality. Advancing legislation to fully fund the LWCF is a huge step to protect key outdoor spaces such as forests, coastal landscapes, and aquatic habitats that define Maine’s environment, communities, recreational economy, and way of life,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President & Northeast Representative at The Conservation Fund. “We applaud Congressman Golden and all of the bipartisan leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for championing this critical conservation program.”
"Maine’s quality of life and the health of its fish and wildlife are tied to our woods and waters,” said Jeff Reardon, Maine Brook Trout Project Director for Trout Unlimited. “We thank Congressman Golden for introducing the Great American Outdoors Act in the House. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been critical in Trout Unlimited’s work to protect places like the Cold Stream Forest for brook trout and anglers. Permanent funding for the program is critical to protecting and managing important public lands.”