Senate Passes Historic Public Lands Legislation – Cantwell Celebrates Passage, Highlights Importance of Investment in Public Lands

Cantwell: “Huge day” for public lands; “what we’re doing today is returning value to the next generation”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation championed by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at its fully authorized level of $900 million per year and address a multibillion dollar maintenance backlog on our public lands. That provision passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act by a vote of 73-25.

“Public lands are a great driver of our economy and an essential aspect of American life, and this vote says we’re going to continue to invest in them,” Cantwell said. “It couldn’t be a more important investment, and it couldn’t give America a bigger return. This is a huge day for public lands in the United States Senate.”

In her remarks, Cantwell spoke about the importance of the LWCF for the nation’s outdoor recreation economy, which generates more than $887 billion in consumer spending every year and supports 7.6 million jobs nationwide.

“Taking this revenue from oil and gas offshoring and putting it into land conservation has been a big win for the American people. Not only did they get open space and [the ability] to recreate, it puts money back into our juggernaut outdoor economy as well,” Cantwell said.

“For us in the state of Washington, we have received something like $700 million dollars over the life of this project since the ‘60s, and with this legislation today, basically making sure the Land and Water Conservation dollars collected from offshore oil revenue is spent in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we will receive hundreds of millions more, between 200 and 300 million more, in land and water conservation investment,” she continued.

Cantwell also spoke about the importance of the Great American Outdoors Act’s investment in backlogged maintenance projects on federal lands. The bill provides $9.5 million for these projects over ten years, which will help address more than $400 million in deferred maintenance needs on federal land in Washington state, including the nearly $300 million needed to upgrade facilities at Olympic and Mt. Rainier National Parks.

“The funding for the backlog in maintenance is a phenomenal investment. These facilities need maintenance… and what we’re doing today is returning value to the next generation.”

Cantwell has been a leading champion of the LWCF and public lands throughout her time in office. When the fund’s authorization expired for the first time in its history in 2015, Cantwell led the fight to reauthorize it. In 2019, Cantwell’s legislation to permanently reauthorize the fund was signed into law as part of her bipartisan public lands package. She has also introduced legislation and led the fight to ensure the LWCF gets the full funding authorized to it.

The Great American Outdoors Act now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Video from Senator Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE and the audio is available HERE. A transcript is available HERE.