WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed landmark bipartisan conservation legislation championed by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that will fully, permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and invest billions of dollars to address the maintenance backlog on public lands throughout Washington state and around the country. The bipartisan legislation passed the House by a vote of 310-107 and now moves to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
“I applaud my House colleagues for passing this legislation and getting it to the president’s desk,” Cantwell said. “Our National Park maintenance backlog is atrocious. Investment in maintenance helps keep our parks open and allows them to serve more visitors.
“Representative Kilmer, who represents Olympic National Park, which contributes over a quarter of billion each year to the local economy, has long fought to invest in cleaning up the maintenance backlog. Olympic, Rainier, and other parks like Lake Roosevelt and Fort Vancouver will also get long-overdue repairs addressed.
“We’re also fixing decades of underinvestment in public lands by permanently fixing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will give Americans two- to three-times more dollars invested in parks and open space at no cost to the taxpayer.”
The Great American Outdoors Act, which Cantwell helped author and cosponsored in the Senate, will permanently fund the LWCF at its full authorization level of $900 million per year – roughly two or three times the amount the fund has historically received. Because the funding comes from offshore oil and gas royalties, it will not burden taxpayers or add to the national deficit. Since its creation by Washington Senator Scoop Jackson in 1965, the LWCF has supported more than 42,000 projects in communities throughout the country, including investing more than $725 million in more than 700 projects throughout Washington state.
Cantwell has long been a leading congressional champion of the LWCF. The fund helps support the American outdoor recreation economy, which generates $887 billion in consumer spending every year and supports 7.6 million jobs nationwide. In Washington state alone, outdoor recreation creates $26 billion in annual spending, supports over 200,000 jobs, and generates $7.6 billion in wages and salaries.
In addition, the legislation also invests $9.5 billion in long-overdue maintenance projects on federal public lands throughout the country. The National Park Service will receive $6.65 billion over five years; the U.S. Forest Service will receive $1.425 billion; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education will each receive $475 million. Popular sites in Washington state could receive millions in funding, including Olympic National Park, which has $262 million in deferred maintenance needs, and Mt. Rainier, which needs $186 million in urgent upgrades.
Cantwell has long fought to protect and strengthen the LWCF. When the fund’s authorization expired in 2015 for the first time in its 50 year history, Cantwell successfully led the fight to reauthorize the fund for three years despite strong opposition from leaders in the House of Representatives. In 2019, Cantwell’s legislation to permanently reauthorize the fund was signed into law as part of her bipartisan public lands package. She has also introduced legislation and led the fight to ensure the LWCF gets the full funding authorized to it.