June 17, 2020

Senate Passes Manchin's Landmark Conservation Package

Senate overwhelmingly passes Manchin’s Great American Outdoors Act

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, applauded the Senate passage of his Great American Outdoors Act. The landmark conservation package passed the Senate by a vote of 73-25.The legislation would provide full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and finally address the approximately $20 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our Country’s public lands.

“I’m proud to have worked closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this historic conservation bill. Full and permanent funding for the LWCF is critical so our land management agencies can continue their legacy of conservation and growing opportunities for outdoor recreation. Addressing the daunting deferred maintenance needs in our national parks is long overdue and will ensure all of our public land management agencies can operate fully to maintain and protect the public lands we all cherish. In the Mountain State, we have a rich history and at the center of it is our love and appreciation for the outdoor playground we have been blessed with. The Great American Outdoors Act will guarantee the wild and wonderful corners of West Virginia are protected for generations to come,” Ranking Member Manchin said. “I’ve seen firsthand the jobs that the outdoor recreation economy has brought to all areas of West Virginia. At a time of historic unemployment, there is simply no better time than now to pass this much needed legislation. This is a historic achievement for conservation and a testament to the strong, bipartisan work that is still possible when we put politics aside to do what is best for our country.”

Senator Manchin has been a long-time advocate of the LWCF and in February 2019, led the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act through the Senate, which permanently authorized LWCF. Since 1965, about $19 billion of LWCF funds have been appropriated, leaving about $22 billion of the revenues that have accrued in the Fund unappropriated.  Further, the program has only been fully funded twice in its history. Senator Manchin’s Great American Outdoors Act would provide the full $900 million in the Fund every year going forward. Senator Manchin is proud to be joined by every member of the Democratic caucus in supporting this legislation.

The Great American Outdoors Act also provides significant funding to address the deferred maintenance needs on Federal lands. The legislation would provide $9.5 billion over 5 years for the NPS, USFS, BLM, USFWS, and Bureau of Indian Education maintenance backlog. The current maintenance backlog is over $20 billion.

This bill will also serve as a much needed stimulus to combat the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Manchin stressed the economic impact outdoor recreation has had and will have for states across the country, particularly West Virginia. Investing in deferred maintenance projects would create more than 110,000 infrastructure related jobs. Also, a new analysis from Boston University found that at full funding of $900 million, the LWCF could support an additional approximately 15,000 to 28,000 jobs each year.

“From Canaan Valley to Monongahela National Forest to New River Gorge, West Virginia’s beautiful landscapes are integral to our identity, our economy and our well-being. Amidst all of the challenges we face, the Great American Outdoors Act is a once-in-a-generation investment in conservation, one West Virginia and the rest of the country needs right now,” said Beth Wheatley, director of external affairs and strategic initiatives for The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. “By fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and investing in the care of our national parks and public lands, this act will create jobs, rebuild local economies and increase public access for hiking, mountain biking, paddling, fishing, and family picnics. Senator Manchin is a dedicated champion for West Virginia and its outdoors, and we know today’s vote would not have happened without him. We thank him for guiding the Great American Outdoors Act to passage and urge the House of Representatives to quickly follow suit."

“Today’s vote represents a remarkable victory for our outdoor recreation economy, for our public lands and waters, and for all who love the great outdoors. West Virginia needs this right now; our nation needs it. It shows that in uncertain and turbulent times, the value we place on our outdoor spaces have a way of bringing us together to look to the future. We appreciate Senator Manchin’s leadership and tireless work to garner bipartisan support for the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Angie Rosser, Executive Director for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.