The U.S. House of Representatives took significant action to address campground modernization and deferred maintenance on public lands with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) by a vote of 310-107 today, July 22. The bill, which will provide the largest investment in our iconic public lands in over a century, was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate last month.
The Great American Outdoors Act will invest up to $9.5 billion of nontaxpayer funds to address the infrastructure within the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other federal agencies. The bill will also fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provide $900 million per year in investment in the public lands, parks, and trails that are the backbone of the outdoor recreation economy.
“If you’re an RVer, or any kind of outdoor recreation enthusiast, the Great American Outdoors Act is the best thing to happen to our community in six decades,” said Craig Kirby, RV Industry Association President. “Thank you to those Members of Congress who voted in favor of this landmark legislation that will direct significant funds toward critical deferred maintenance and campground modernization needs on our public lands and waters. Twenty million RVers across the country depend on our iconic state and federal lands for recreation, conservation, enjoyment, and overnight camping. Enactment of this milestone legislation will mean increased recreation access for all no matter where they live, allowing more Americans to find fulfillment in living an active outdoor lifestyle.”
The bipartisan legislation, which had overwhelming support from the House and Senate RV Caucuses, will achieve the dual goals of protecting America’s special places and repairing deteriorating infrastructure. Funds provided in the GAOA will help improve outdoor recreation-related facilities that RVers rely on, like campgrounds, roads, bridges, parking lots, restrooms, visitor centers, trails, docks, and more –which have desperately needed updating or repairs for decades. It will help achieve this goal while preserving water quantity and quality, sustaining working landscapes and rural economies.
“RVers across the country depend on our incredible state and federal lands for recreation, conservation, enjoyment, and overnight camping. Thanks to the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act by the House of Representatives, we are one step closer to improving the experience of RVers by addressing deferred maintenance and campground modernization needs across federal lands and waters,” said Bob Martin, President and CEO of Thor Industries. “This legislation is critical not only to the RV industry and the significant number of new consumers looking to RVs as a way to travel this summer, but also to the wider outdoor recreation economy. We are grateful for the bipartisan support of this bill received in both the House and the Senate and look forward to the President signing the bill.”
The LWCF has, for 50 years, been our nation’s most successful conservation program. LWCF funds can be a lifeline for communities that rely on recreation access to local, state, and national parks, wildlife habitats, and working forests. LWCF funds have had a direct impact on growing the outdoor recreation economy by increasing recreational access to public lands in every state and county in America. Just recently the impact of LWCF has been seen on local campgrounds with the announcement of a $200,000 LWCF grant to upgrade electrical hookups, fire pits, and restrooms at an RV campground in Georgia. Passage of the GAOA will fund similar grants to modernize campgrounds across the country.
“The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure safe and enjoyable experiences for the millions of RVers across the country by increasing recreation access for all Americans no matter where they live, and addressing the deferred maintenance backlog on public lands and waters,” said Mike Happe, Winnebago Industries President and CEO. “This milestone legislation is important not only for the RV industry but also for the greater $778 billion outdoor recreation economy.”
A study from the National Park Service (NPS) estimates that addressing the backlog in our national parks alone would create or support over 100,000 infrastructure-related jobs, most of these in struggling rural communities—the communities that have been hit particularly hard in the wake of the pandemic. Additionally, the study shows GAOA’s impact on NPS sites alone would support $6.5 billion in labor income, $17.5 billion in economic output, and contribute $9.6 billion to the US GDP.
“The all-American RV industry has been solidly behind the Great American Outdoors Act from the start,” said Chris Bornemann, RV Industry Association Director of Government Affairs. “Thank you, Congress, and the RV Caucus, for providing the resources to reinvigorate our iconic lands and make them safe and modern for all outdoor recreation lovers. We look forward to the President signing the bill, something he has already promised to do.”
As visitors return to parks and public lands, funding created by the GAOA will ensure that these special places are safe, accessible, and ready to help generate tourist dollars in local communities and tax revenues for local, state, and federal agencies.
“As more Americans look to RVs as a way to still get out and see our nation’s majestic public lands while also adhering to social distancing, it is more important than ever for Congress to address the mounting deferred maintenance on these lands through the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Kevin McArt, General Manager at Forest River Inc. “We applaud Congress for passing this historic legislation, which will create safe and enjoyable experiences for the 20 million RVers across the country.”