U.S. Senate passes measure to fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund, tackle National Park maintenance | CraigDailyPress.com

U.S. Senate passes measure to fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund, tackle National Park maintenance

After years of stalled efforts, the Great American Outdoors Act gained traction thanks to Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who won backing from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump

Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.
(Provided by Rocky Mountain National Park and the National Park Service)

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill that would achieve the long-held goal of fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund while also providing money to help tackle the $12 billion maintenance backlog at America’s national parks. 

Colorado, with its vast public lands and numerous national parks, recreation areas, historic sites and monuments, is set to benefit from the measure, called the Great American Outdoors Act. Conservation and environmental groups in the state have long pushed for such legislation. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund would receive all of the money it is due from royalties collected on offshore oil and gas drilling, or $900 million annually, pumping millions into projects in Colorado. The fund, which has historically only been allocated a fraction of the money it is authorized to receive, has in the past been used to acquire public lands in Colorado, from Summit County to Durango to Cherry Creek State Park.

In 2018 fiscal year there was nearly $2 billion in deferred maintenance at areas operated in Colorado by the National Park Service. That included $84 million in needed repairs at Rocky Mountain National Park; $76 million in deferred maintenance at Mesa Verde National Park; and $21 million in put-off repairs and upgrades at the Colorado National Monument. 

The Great American Outdoors Act allocates $9.5 billion over five years to address the maintenance backlog.

“So many people have worked together on this bill for so long,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who helped secure the bill’s passage earlier this year after negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump. “It will be one of the great bipartisan accomplishments of this Congress.”

Gardner called passing the measure in the Senate one of the most important steps for public lands in decades.

Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate have been pushing for years to protect and secure full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund with mixed success. The efforts have mostly been led by GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, but in March Gardner and Montana’s Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines announced that they had won the support of McConnell and Trump to push the effort over the finish line.

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, please click here.

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