Great American Outdoors Act signed into law – August 4, 2020

Earlier this year, President Trump called on Congress to send him a bill that would fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and restore our national parks. On August 4, 2020, President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law, accomplishing those exact objectives. 

The Trump Administration worked with Congress to secure the passage of this landmark conservation legislation, which will use revenues from energy development to provide up to $1.9 billion a year for five years to provide needed maintenance for critical facilities and infrastructure in our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and American Indian schools. It will also use royalties from offshore oil and natural gas to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the tune of $900 million a year to invest in conservation and recreation opportunities across the country. 

National parks host more than 325 million visitors every year, and the infrastructure cannot keep up without significant repairs. The network of roads, trails, restrooms, water treatment systems, and visitor facilities are aging, and many are exceeding the capacity they were designed to support. The National Parks and Public Lands Restoration Fund will provide funding for priority projects that address the maintenance backlog at NPS facilities, including campgrounds, picnic areas, roads, trails, and other critical infrastructure. Specific projects to be funded will be announced in the future.

November 19, 2019 press release from the office of Senator Hirono:

Senate Energy Committee Clears Hirono-Backed Bills to Permanently Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Address Deferred Maintenance Backlog in National Parks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee cleared two Hirono-backed bills that would provide permanent full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and create a new fund to address the growing deferred maintenance backlog in the National Parks system. These bills can now be considered by the full Senate. 

“Over the past 50 years, the LWCF has provided nearly $250 million in funding for Hawaii to protect some of our most cherished public spaces – including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail,” Senator Hirono said. “By advancing legislation to provide full, permanent funding for the LWCF and to establish a program to address the massive deferred maintenance in our National Parks, this committee today took a meaningful step toward ensuring that public lands in Hawaii are protected and maintained for future generations.” 

Senator Hirono is an original cosponsor of S. 1081, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, which provides full, mandatory funding for the LWCF. Over the past 50 years, the LWCF has provided nearly $250 million to protect and conserve lands in Hawaii. Senator Hirono has been a longtime champion of the LWCF, most recently supporting Hawaii’s “Island Forests at Risk” proposal, which from Fiscal Year 2016 through 2018, received $22 million in funding to expand the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, $12 million to expand Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and $6 million for Haleakala National Park.

Senator Hirono is also an original co-sponsor of the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 500). This legislation would establish, fund, and provide for the use of amounts in a National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to address the estimated $165 million deferred maintenance backlog in Hawaii’s National Parks.

“Our national parks and public lands generate billions of dollars for local economies in tourism dollars, jobs and tax revenue. However, without funding, our national treasures, like anything else, will eventually fall apart,” Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park CEO Elizabeth Fien said. “The infrastructure of our National Parks is in great need of repair and philanthropic dollars are necessary to fund programs and park projects, not maintaining sewers, gas lines, bridges, etc. That is why we see S. 500 as a smart investment, as it will not only fund the maintenance needs of our parks but also create additional infrastructure-related jobs as well as preserve visitor access and resources.” 

“LWCF is integral to preserving, protecting, and creating exceptional parks and open space. Without funding from LWCF we would not have been able to protect some of Hawaii’s most special places,” Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands State Director for the Trust for Public Land said. “I am thankful for Senator Hirono’s leadership on this legislation and I look forward to working with her and her team on ensuring everyone in Hawaii can enjoy our beloved aina.”

“Despite the many benefits that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided in protecting some of Hawaii’s most sensitive lands over the past 54 years, it has suffered from chronic underfunding,” Ulalia Woodside, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, said. “At a time when our public lands are facing a myriad of threats, including land use and climate change, S. 1081 is necessary to ensure that the full capabilities of the LWCF are provided to addressing the urgent needs of these lands and waters.”