Great American Outdoors Act Headed to House After Passing Senate With Strong Bipartisan Majority
GOLDEN, Colo. (Jun. 17, 2020) – Today, the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act 73-25 in a strong show of bipartisan support for public lands. The Great American Outdoors Act will guarantee full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and fund long-deferred maintenance of our nation’s national forests, trails, and other public lands - and would give the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) a chance to be completed in the coming years.
LWCF funding was used in 2017 to conserve property along New Mexico’s Alamocita Creek to create a public corridor for the CDT. “For more than 50 years, LWCF has been a crucial tool in protecting our public lands and waters,” said Teresa Martinez, Executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. “Full funding of LWCF means more places to play, more protection for parks and trails, and more investment in tourist communities hit hard by COVID-19. Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act into law would be a great victory for public lands, and we’re grateful to the bipartisan group of Senators from CDT states – Senators Heinrich and Udall of New Mexico, Senators Bennet and Gardner of Colorado, and Senators Daines and Tester of Montana – who led the bill to Senate passage.”
Westerners have long called for the need for full, dedicated funding for LWCF and for a solution to a growing backlog of maintenance in national parks and forests. In a 2019 survey of small business owners in towns along the Continental Divide Trail, 98% of them supported full, dedicated funding of LWCF. In March, President Trump made a seemingly abrupt about-face after years of proposing drastic cuts to LWCF to join these calls of support. His endorsement of the Great American Outdoors Act and broad support for the bill among House members makes final passage more likely, but in 2020 it seems there are no guarantees.
“We are thrilled that the Great American Outdoors Act has passed through the Senate, but the work is not yet finished,” said Martinez. “We urge the House champions of this bill, including original cosponsors Representative Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico and Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho, to push this bill past the finish line as quickly as possible.”
About the Continental Divide Trail
The CDT is one of the world’s premier long-distance trails, stretching 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Continental Divide. Designated by Congress in 1978, the CDT is the highest, most challenging, and most remote of the 11 National Scenic Trails. It provides recreational opportunities ranging from hiking to horseback riding to hunting for thousands of visitors each year. While 95% of the CDT is located on public land, approximately 150 miles are still in need of protection.
About the Continental Divide Trail Coalition
The CDTC was founded in 2012 by volunteers and recreationists hoping to provide a unified voice for the Trail. Working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Forest Service and other federal land management agencies, the CDTC is a non-profit partner supporting stewardship of the CDT. The mission of the CDTC is to complete, promote, and protect the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, a world-class national resource. For more information, please visit continentaldividetrail.org.