WASHINGTON – Yesterday,
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor to call for passage of
the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. The legislation will improve the
visitor experience at National Park Service units, provide significant
investment to address the maintenance backlog, and bolster Missouri’s outdoor
In our state, the outdoor recreation industry
generates $14.9 billion in consumer spending, supports 133,000 jobs, and
produces $889 million annually in state and local tax revenue.
Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:
“Mr. President, this week we're considering the
bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. I think it's fair to say that this is
one of the most important packages of conservation legislation we've seen in a
long time. It might be fair to say that it's the most important piece of
legislation since President Theodore Roosevelt dramatically made additions to
the National Park System just a little more than 100 years ago. The bill
essentially combines two important provisions, the Restore Our Parks Act and
the Land and Water Conservation Full Funding Act. I'm a cosponsor of both of
those. We have been trying to do the things that those two bills both do for a
long time, and here we are.
“You know, during World War II, Mr. President,
within just a few days of D-Day, President Eisenhower, at that time General
Eisenhower, had a view that sometimes if a problem is too big to solve or seems
to be too hard to solve, you solve it by making it bigger. Interestingly, what
we've done here with two things that we've been trying to do for a long time,
to have more full access to the reason the Land and Water Conservation Act was
created and to do a better job maintaining our parks. That's all been combined
into the Great American Outdoors Act.
“The first thing this act does is frankly make a
significant investment for the deferred maintenance that we have on all kinds
of federal land. It's one of our challenges as a government generally, it's
been specifically one of our challenges as it relates to the National Park
System, to the Forest Service, to the Fish and Wildlife Service, to the Bureau
of Land Management. Every one of those has deferred maintenance issues that
have been there for a long time. In fact, some of them have been there for
“I mentioned earlier that the park system, as we
now know it, is a little more than a hundred years old. Some of these
maintenance issues are decades old, maybe 50 years old, maybe half of the life
of the entire park service we've had these issues on a list of something needs
to be done. In Yellowstone of the High Bridge, that thousands of cars go over
every summer, that bridge needs to be repaired. Of the water maintenance
systems in our parks where particularly they have overnight accommodations and
other things, many of those systems are almost as old as the park itself. Of
buildings we have on all those locations where the access is no longer
appropriate, and hasn't been for a long time. Sometimes that meant you just
closed the visitor center, you closed that part of the park that people
previously had a way to get in, and see a display, look at an exhibit, but
because of disability issues, it should have been fixed long ago, they haven’t
“I’ve been saying certainly for several years now
that the second century of the park system needs to be different than the first
century of the park system. More private-public relationships, we saw a great
example of that at the renewal of the Arch and the museum and the area in St.
Louis that just had a significant effort made, almost all by either local or
private funds, very few federal dollars there.
“But if you're going to have a public-private
partnership, the public needs to do its part. We're talking today about how the
public would do its part of maintaining the parks, expanding the parks and
building new facility, of repairing the facility, of changing access to a
facility. But a lot of this deferred maintenance will not even be all that
obvious. It's just something that has to be done, and because it's not all that
obvious, the bridge hasn't collapsed yet, the water system still appears to be
producing water that people can use, so let's worry about that at some future
time. Well, the future time, Mr. President, is here.
“This act will work to help improve the visitor
experience at the park service. Certainly at the units in my state, and, Mr.
President, your state. I've been to a number of the facilities in Georgia that
will be impacted by this. In Missouri, the westward expansion that's celebrated
at the Arch, where we just made a significant investment in that facility. The
Truman Home in Independence would be a National Park Service facility. The
first park in America dedicated to an African American, a national park, the
George Washington Carver Park at Diamond would be a place that would
potentially benefit from this.
“The new park that we've established in Ste.
Genevieve, Missouri, that has more of the original French architecture left,
vertical log architecture and big porches that would have looked like a
farmhouse in Normandy with a Caribbean porch put on it. Numbers of those are
going to create one of the best walking historic parks in America. That park
would benefit. So the Federal Park System benefits but also this legislation
includes permanent annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“Now when you think of the title of the fund, why
would you have to do permanent funding to be sure that the Land and Water
Conservation Fund got spent on land and water? It doesn’t seem to be a genius
move to do what we’re doing here. What we’re doing here with this fund is
taking about $900 million a year that has been going in many cases for other
purposes and say ‘no, we collect the fund for this purpose, let's use it for
this purpose.’ It's not like we've ran out of things to do with the money and
so we’ve decided let's put it somewhere else. But this does what the fund is
supposed to do with the fund.
“In our state, again, in Missouri, over the past
50 years, we've spent about $150 million out of that fund. The fund has been
used to protect historically significant sites like the Mark Twain National
Forest or the Ozarks National Scenic River or the Big Muddy National Fish and
Wildlife Refuge have all been beneficiaries of that fund to some extent. The
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield has been a beneficiary of that fund. But
the fund was created for the purpose that this legislation will ensure it largely
“We know that we have to build important
relationships between local communities, between the park service, between the
American public to ensure that these sites are managed in the right way, that
they're preserved for the future. And they're safe to use for the millions of
Americans that are going to use them this summer and next summer and the summer
after that, and this winter and next winter and the winter after that.
“In addition to the preservation efforts to the
conservation efforts, the bill will help, frankly, bolster Missouri's outdoor
recreation industry. And it's significant. The Outdoor Recreation Industry
Association says that we generate about almost $15 billion in our state in
consumer spending, about 133,000 jobs are created in Missouri because of
outdoor recreation. About five million American jobs are created, and
around $800 billion of economic activity created because of the ability to use
these and other outdoor resources.
“Mr. President, this is obviously not a normal year.
So anything we can do to encourage people to use these facilities in a better
way is important. Anything we can do as we look to the future to maintain them
and hand them over. We have the chance here, Mr. President, on all of these
areas, whether it's bureau of public lands or the national forest or the
national parks. We have a chance to hand them to the next generation in
better shape than we got them. We have a chance to look at projects that have
been on the ‘we need to do this’ list for 40 and 50 years, and do what is
needed to be done for 40 or 50 years.
proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill, proud of the leadership,
particularly of Senator Gardner and Senator Daines on our side, on this effort,
and the vast bipartisan support that this bill will have. I look forward to
voting for it. I urge my colleagues to vote for it, and even more importantly,
I look forward to seeing this bill have the impact that it absolutely will
have, and has to have, on the important resources that we need to make the
right kind of investment in.”