A man fly-fishing in a stream with fall foliage around it.
Big Thompson River. A park visitor fly fishing in the Big Thompson River in Moraine Park at dawn in Rocky Mountain Park, Colorado. © Nick Hall

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Former Interior Secretaries Call for Conservation Vote

Bipartisan group voices support for Great American Outdoors Act

Six former secretaries of the Department of the Interior called on Congress today to pass the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), without amendments. The bill, which the Senate will take up in the coming days, would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and expand maintenance in national parks and on other public lands.

“During our time as Secretaries of the Interior, we had the privilege and responsibility of stewarding some of America’s most incredible landscapes and natural and cultural treasures,” the former secretaries from Republican and Democratic administrations wrote in a letter to House and Senate leaders today. “Now, more than ever, we are all cognizant of the critical role of public lands in our lives, as places to recreate, to recharge and to seek solace in the midst of great uncertainty—and, also, to create jobs.”

Letter by Former Department of Interior Secretaries

The letter was signed by every former Interior secretary since 1993, spanning multiple administrations. Those secretaries are Ryan Zinke (2017-2019), Sally Jewell (2013-2017), Ken Salazar (2009-2013), Dirk Kempthorne (2006-2009), Gale Norton (2001-2006) and Bruce Babbitt (1993-2001).

The bill would dedicate $9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance needs within the National Park System, other public land agencies and Bureau of Indian Education schools. It would also fully and permanently fund LWCF at $900 million every year to ensure protection of and access to public lands.

The secretaries said these investments will help support America's outdoor recreation economy, which contributes $778 billion in consumer spending and supports 5.2 million jobs nationwide, while also improving wildlife habitat, water quality and access to the outdoors.

The Senate GAOA was introduced in March and so far has 59 co-sponsors, a majority of the chamber. A House companion bill is expected to be introduced soon.

“We are pleased to see strong bipartisan support from the House and Senate—and from the President—for the Great American Outdoors Act,” the secretaries concluded. “Americans need these public lands. And Americans need your continued leadership to deliver this historic legislation in to law.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.