Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Great American Outdoors Act
Jul 22, 2020
Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1957, legislation to provide permanent, full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and establish the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for being a lifelong champion of environmental justice and environmental stewardship. Thank you, Mr. Grijalva, as Chair of the Natural Resources Committee.
As a Californian, as an American and as Speaker of the House, I proudly rise in support of the Great American Outdoors Act, one of the most important conservation and public lands bills in decades. This legislation builds on the progress made here by House Democrats and others earlier in our Majority when we passed the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act named for our former colleague. A fitting testament to Chairman Dingell's legacy, which made permanent the authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Great American Outdoors Act – I love the title – takes the next step in our pro-conservation agenda as it broadly protects and boldly protects our country's natural and cultural heritage for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come.
This legislation reflects the energy and expertise of our Freshmen, and I particularly salute Congressman Joe Cunningham of South Carolina. Congressman Cunningham is a former ocean engineer, now serving on the Natural Resources Committee who was the lead author on this legislation. Thank you, Mr. Cunningham.
In passing this legislation, Congress is ensuring that America lives up to its conservation promises as we finally permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at levels that were promised. Over – for over 55 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided over $17 billion in funding for over 40,000 recreational and conservation initiatives in every county in the country. In every county in the country. Creating and protecting America's iconic landscapes, like the Grand Canyon, and the historical sites, like the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. Some of California's most treasured natural areas benefited from the protection provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including Joshua Tree, Lake Tahoe and the Golden State National Recreation Area in the San Francisco, Bay Area. The Land and Water Conservation Fund also addresses environmental injustice by creating green spaces near low-income communities and communities of color across the country. Permanently funding the LWCF will ensure that we preserve our natural heritage in an equitable manner to ensure that all communities can benefit.
The Great American Outdoors Act, I love the name as I said, also makes an urgently-needed investment in our National Parks, which face a crippling $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Our parks are critical to the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage, and we must ensure that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
The Great American Outdoor Act enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support both in the Congress and across the country. Nearly 900 natural – national state and local groups representing small businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, veterans, outdoor recreationists and conservation organizations have written in support of this legislation, sharing these thoughts: ‘The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure a future for nature to thrive, kids to play, hunters and anglers to enjoy. National Parks and public lands provide access to the outdoors for hundreds of millions of people every year and habitat for some of our country's most iconic wildlife.’
It goes on, ‘These treasured places also tell the stories that define and unite us as a nation. Funds provided in this bill will secure those vital resources while preserving water quantity and quality, sustaining workplace – working landscapes and rural economies, increasing access for recreation for all Americans no matter where they live and fueling the juggernaut of our outdoor economy.’
Indeed, the Great American Outdoor Act supports good-paying jobs and grows the economy. Nationally, outdoor recreation supports more than five million jobs and adds nearly $750 billion to the economy. House Democrats are proud to pass this bill and send it onto the President's desk. We hope to do so in the strongest possible bipartisan way, as it passed the United States Senate.
As we do, we'll continue our work to protect our environment and national heritage by including calling the Senate to take up H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, which rebuilds America's infrastructure, while investing in a clean energy future, including by modernizing our energy infrastructure, boosting our commitment to renewables, building a clean transportation sector and more.
Also, we want to implement the Select Committee's action plan to solve the climate crisis, the most sweeping and detailed climate plan in decades, which sets out a vision for 30 by 2030, conserving at least 30 percent of the land and water in American by 2030 – conserving at least 30 percent of land and ocean in America by 2030 to confront the threats of the climate crisis, which the Great American Outdoors Act advances.
And urging the Senate to take up H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, our strong response to the American people who are demanding climate action by keeping us in the Paris Agreement. That’s not in this bill. We have a different bill here, and we must invest in the future we want for our children.
I just want to put this into perspective, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, and thank you for your leadership in so many ways. When our country was founded and Thomas Jefferson, when he became president, he tasked the Secretary of the Treasury, Gallatin, to build the infrastructure of America, for an infrastructure plan that would follow the Lewis and Clark expedition. It was the Erie Canal, Cumberland Road, all kinds of things, built into the Louisiana purchase that would follow.
It was a great undertaking. Gallatin was the Secretary of Treasury, and so many things happened at that time to build the infrastructure into the Manifest Destiny of America as we moved west. One-hundred years after that – you wonder why I’m bringing it up – 100 years later at the anniversary of that initiative, the President, Teddy Roosevelt, did his own infrastructure initiative called the National Park Service, and it was to build and respect and conserve the green infrastructure of America. It was quite remarkable.
So much sprang from that initiative of Teddy Roosevelt, the great conservationist. And now over 200 years later, this is a tip of the hat to all of that, but so much more needs to be done. But it is a recognition of the importance of the great outdoors, to the quality of life, but also, the juggernaut of our outdoor economy.
So, I hope we will have a strong bipartisan vote. I once again thank the distinguished Chairman, Mr. Grijalva, for his leadership in all of this over the years and for this bill. Again, salute Mr. Cunningham of South Carolina for bringing his expertise as an ocean engineer to bear as the lead author of this important legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act.
With that I yield back the balance of my time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
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