King, Golden Proposal Providing Free National Park Access to Gold Star Families Now Law

January 29, 2021
Press Release
The Gold Star Family Park Pass Act enacted into law with National Defense Authorization Act veto override

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Ranking Member of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, and Congressman Jared Golden (D-Maine) announced that their legislation to make national parks free for Gold Star Families has been enacted into law after Congress voted on a widely bipartisan basis to override President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act. The law allows free access to America’s National Parks and federal recreation sites for families of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty while serving in the military.

“America’s Gold Star families have made unimaginable sacrifices for the safety of our nation, and they deserve our utmost support as they heal,” said Senator King. “Our nation’s public lands are among the most beautiful natural wonders in the world, and their importance to the American public has only grown during the unprecedented circumstances of the ongoing pandemic. These American treasures are sources of peace for many, providing vital sanctuaries for those who wish to connect with the world around them. I’m proud to have worked with Congressman Golden to ensure that those who’ve lost a loved one in the defense of our nation can access America’s most beautiful lands free of charge.”

“Making America’s national parks and public lands completely free is one small but meaningful way to honor families who have lost a loved one in service to our country,” said Congressman Golden. “A constituent came to my office with the suggestion for this policy and we worked to make it a reality. This proposal has already been implemented by the Department of the Interior, and it’s now the law of the land. I’m proud to have worked with Senator King to get this done for American Gold Star families.”

“We see how Acadia can transform lives every day—the silent awe of witnessing the sun’s first rays atop Cadillac Mountain or the triumph of climbing one’s first mountain,” said David MacDonald, President of Friends of Acadia. “National parks are places where families connect through shared experiences, outdoor adventures, and deeper conversations amidst incredible beauty away from the clamor of daily life. We thank Senator King and Representative Golden for their leadership on this issue, and we’re thrilled that Gold Star Families will be able to heal in Acadia without worry of cost.”

Specifically, the legislation makes the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program free for Gold Star Families. 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. Congressman Golden first introduced the bipartisan Gold Star Families Parks Pass Act with Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) last year and passed it through the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in July 2020. Senators King, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced the companion bill in the Senate. In October, the U.S. Department of Interior announced it would implement the lawmakers’ proposal nationwide.

Senator King was a cosponsor of the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act, which is now law, and fought to reverse the provision of the 2017 tax bill that exorbitantly taxed the families of U.S. servicemembers who died while on active duty. In June 2018, he helped dedicate the first Gold Star Families Memorial Marker in Maine. He has also cosponsored the Gold Star Families Support and Installation Act, a bipartisan bill that would help Gold Star families access military facilities and certain military benefits. As a lifelong advocate for conservation, Senator King is among the Senate’s loudest voices advocating for protecting the our nation’s natural gifts. He was one of the leaders of the “landmark” Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which was enacted into law earlier this year and includes the Restore Our Parks Acta proposal originally introduced by Senators King, Alexander, Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to address the existing $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks.

Congressman Golden was a cosponsor of the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act in the House. As a member of the bipartisan For Country Caucus, he cosponsored and helped pass the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, which removed the ‘widow’s tax’ on survivor’s benefits for military spouses. He was one of 12 original cosponsors of the Great American Outdoors Act in the House before it passed the chamber and was signed into law.