By Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post eEdition, July 23, 2020
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a major public lands bill introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Yuma. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat, was a co-sponsor of the legislation. Great American Outdoors Act passed by a vote of 310-107. It previously had passed the Senate, so it now goes to President Donald Trump, who has said he will sign it.
The legislation permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been chronically underfunded for decades. The fund uses oil and gas revenue to expand public lands, safeguard natural areas and protect cultural heritage sites in every state across the country. “For over five decades, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested approximately $278.6 million in the state of Colorado,” said Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen.
The bill also addresses a $20 billion backlog of deferred maintenance in national parks. The Great American Outdoors Act has had significant bipartisan support since Trump announced in March that he likes it. But in the House on Wednesday, Colorado’s votes were split along party lines. The state’s four House Democrats voted in favor and the three Colorado Republicans voted against. “One of our country’s most popular national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park, faces a significant maintenance backlog of $84 million,” said Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, during a speech on the House floor. “Our park employees are working incredibly hard, but they can’t do it alone.”