Guest view: Great American Outdoors Act took bipartisan push
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Guest view: Great American Outdoors Act took bipartisan push

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Once again public lands brought a divided government together. We saw this last week as I helped bring my colleagues from both sides of the aisle together to pass the bipartisan “Great American Outdoors Act” out of the U.S. Senate.

This is one of the greatest conservation victories in fifty years, and the strong, bipartisan support we saw in the Senate last week shows that even during some of the starkest political divides in our nation, we can come together to do what’s right.

As a fifth-generation Montanan, I know how important protecting our public lands is to our way of life.

I’ve spent countless days hiking the Beartooths, fly fishing in the Yellowstone and enjoying all of Montana’s great outdoors with my sweet wife Cindy, our four kids, and our dogs Ruby and Reagan. I even proposed to Cindy on 10,298-foot Hyalite Peak, south of Bozeman in 1986!

That’s why I introduced the bipartisan “Great American Outdoors Act” – to provide full, mandatory funding of a critical conservation program in Montana called the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and to address the massive maintenance backlog facing our national parks and other cherished public lands.

LWCF is an important tool for outdoor recreation, conservationists, and sportsmen. The program helps increase public access to our public lands, where we’ve seen the program fund over 70% of fishing access sites in Montana. It’s also good for wildlife habitat, jobs, land management, and importantly, it costs the taxpayers nothing!

Our national parks and public lands are what set us apart from the rest of the world. I like to think of our national parks as America's ‘Office of First Impressions’ — and we must make sure our parks are in good shape. That’s why addressing the maintenance backlog of our national parks and our public lands is also so important. Today, there is a backlog of nearly $20 billion impacting our national parks and public lands, including over $700 million in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks and $450 million in trail and road maintenance needs in our National Forests. This impacts visitor experience and safety. The “Great American Outdoors Act” also support jobs and our local economies in our rural and gateway communities.

I knew how important getting this conservation bill out of the Senate was, so on February 27th, I brought the issue straight to the President. I showed pictures of Montana’s outdoors and highlighted how important it is we protect our public lands for future generations. That day we met in the White House's Roosevelt Room, and I secured a commitment from President Trump to support this historic conservation effort.

Together, with senators from both sides of the aisle, we delivered one of the greatest conservation victories in decades. The “Great American Outdoors Act” is more than just a piece of legislation — it sheds light on the heart of this country, and shows the love all Americans have for our outdoors.

And as Montana’s voice in the U.S. Senate, it’s been one of my highest priorities to protect and expand access to our public lands. I’m glad to have gotten this done for Montana.

Montanans were brought up understanding the importance of land stewardship and conservation. To us, protecting our public lands and maintaining our national parks is about preserving our way of life and our heritage for generations to come.

It has been an honor working on behalf of Montana to deliver this historic bipartisan conservation victory, and I will continue working until we get it passed out of the House and onto President Trump’s desk and signed into law.

Steve Daines of Bozeman, a Republican, is a U.S. Senator from Montana.

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