Golden Leads Bipartisan Effort to Retain Free Nat’l Park Access for Gold Star Families in NDAA

September 28, 2020
Press Release
“Any family who has lost a loved one in defense of the United States should be able to access these treasures free of charge.”

WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to call on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Committee leadership to preserve language from his Gold Star Families Park Pass Act in the FY21 NDAA.

Golden introduced the Gold Star Families Park Pass Act in February with Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01). Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Angus King (I-ME) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The legislation would provide free access to National Parks and other federal lands for Gold Star Families. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers and passed the House in July as a part of the NDAA.

“America’s Gold Star Families have made unimaginable sacrifices for the safety of our country, and we should do everything possible to help them heal. Our national parks are among America’s greatest treasures, inspiring awe and providing space for reflection…” the lawmakers said in the letter, sent September 25th. “Any family who has lost a loved one in defense of the United States should be able to access these treasures free of charge.”

Golden has worked hard to help the families of fallen service members, including cosponsoring legislation to strengthen benefits for Gold Star Families and protecting them from tax increases on survivor’s benefits

Representatives Brian Mast (FL-18), Max Rose (NY-11), David Trone (MD-06), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Josh Harder (CA-10), Van Taylor (TX-03), Don Bacon (NE-02) and Mike Levin (CA-49), as well as Senators Angus King (I-ME), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), joined Golden on the letter.

The letter sent to NDAA conference leadership can be read here, or below:


September 25, 2020
 

Hon. James Inhofe, Chairman
Senate Armed Services Committee
228 Russell Senate Office Building  
Washington, DC 20510

     Hon. Adam Smith, Chairman
     House Armed Services Committee
     2120 Rayburn House Office Building
     Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Jack Reed, Ranking Member
Senate Armed Services Committee
228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

     Hon. Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member
     House Armed Services Committee
     2120 Rayburn House Office Building
     Washington, DC 20515



Dear Chairman Inhofe, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Reed, and Ranking Member Thornberry:

During conference committee consideration of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) , we respectfully request that you support Section 626 of the House-passed bill that would make the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program free for Gold Star Families. This language is identical to that of the bipartisan and bicameral Gold Star Families Parks Pass Act (H.R. 5998/S. 3366), which has garnered the support of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sons and Daughters in Touch: America’s Gold Star Children from the Vietnam War, and numerous environmental organizations. 

The pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. Currently, the pass is free for individuals with disabilities, service volunteers, and members of the military.

America’s Gold Star Families have made unimaginable sacrifices for the safety of our country, and we should do everything possible to help them heal. Our national parks are among America’s greatest treasures, inspiring awe and providing space for reflection. Any family who has lost a loved one in defense of the United States should be able to access these treasures free of charge.

Free access to our national parks and public lands is a small but meaningful way for our country to thank our Gold Star Families. Again, we strongly urge you to include Section 626 in the final, conferenced Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA.