July 22, 2020
The Partnership for the National Trails System issued the following statement from Board President Barney Scout Mann upon passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the U.S. House of Representatives:
Today’s vote to pass the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) and send it on to the President is a dream come true. The Partnership for the National Trails System is thrilled that the decades-long effort to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the backlog of maintenance and construction on our public lands has resulted in passage of GAOA with strong bipartisan support.
In the midst of an incredibly challenging time, Congress has taken a bold step to invest in communities and special places all across the nation for the benefit of people and the protection of our natural resources in ways that will endure for generations to come. It is gratifying to see that this issue has brought people together rather than further divide us.
The Partnership is incredibly grateful to those who worked on this legislative effort for over 30 years and who worked so hard to get us to this day. Given how long we’ve been at it, the list of those we want to thank is pages long. In this moment, we especially want to acknowledge the GAOA’s lead sponsors in the House – Reps. Joe Cunningham (SC-1) and Mike Simpson (ID-2), House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva (AZ-3) – and House leadership for moving the bill so quickly following Senate passage. We also thank those who led action in the Senate last month – Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) – as well Senate leadership for making this important legislation a priority.
The National Trails System’s congressionally designated 30 scenic and historic trails are a critical part of America’s impressive public lands and provide spectacular outdoor recreation and cultural experiences. There is at least one national trail in each of our 50 states. These 30 trails connect with 84 national parks, 89 national forests, 70 national wildlife refuges, over 100 BLM public land areas, 179 national wilderness areas, and more than 230 major urban areas and trail towns. Over the years, substantial funding from LWCF has helped build out the trail footpath, protect viewsheds, and conserve important historic and cultural resources that help tell this country’s unique stories. Maintenance and construction funding have ensured that the trail experience is a positive one for millions of visitors each year. But there is much more to do to complete the length and breadth of the National Trails System as envisioned by Congress. We also recognize the importance of creating accessible, safe, and welcoming trail experiences for all users.
The Partnership and its member organizations look forward to working with our public agencies, local communities, and Congress to use GAOA funds to full effect along our scenic and historic trails, ensuring that the National Trails System remains a world-class public land resource for all people now and well into the future.
For more information about the Partnership for the National Trails System, visit www.PNTS.org. The mission of the Partnership is to “empower, inspire, and strengthen public and private partners to develop, preserve, promote, and sustain the national scenic and historic trails.”