President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a major public lands bill that will pump hundreds of millions of federal dollars into Colorado’s national parks.
“This is a very big deal,” the president said in the East Room of the White House. “From an environmental standpoint — and just a beauty of our country standpoint — there hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect.”
The Great American Outdoors Act provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been chronically underfunded for decades. The conservation fund uses oil and gas revenue to expand public lands, safeguard natural areas and protect cultural heritage sites. LWCF has invested about $300 million in Colorado since the 1960s.
The bill also addresses a $20 billion backlog of deferred maintenance in national parks. Colorado parks currently have a backlog of about $250 million, according to National Park Service estimates.
Rocky Mountain National Park has the largest Colorado backlog, more than $84 million. Other maintenance backlogs:
- Mesa Verde National Park, $76 million
- Dinosaur National Monument, $28 million
- Colorado National Monument, $21 million
- Curecanti National Recreation Area, $16 million
The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Denver. It was Gardner who convinced a reluctant Trump in March to back the bill, clearing it for passage through Congress.
“In the midst of acrimony, in the midst of partisanship, in the midst of times when the American people probably look out and wonder if they can get anything done, Congress came together to pass the most significant (public lands) bill — the Great American Outdoors Act — in over 50 years,” Gardner said at the bill signing.
However, some partisanship remained Tuesday. Democratic co-sponsors of the bill, including Bennet, were not invited to the signing, his office said.
Gardner faces a tough re-election fight against John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. Hickenlooper’s spokespeople spent Tuesday morning accusing Gardner of “greenwashing” his record on environmental policy by focusing on one bill.
“Whether it’s denying climate science, selling out our public lands, or unraveling protections for clean air and water, the only ‘green’ thing about Senator Gardner’s toxic record is the campaign cash he has raked in from corporate polluters,” said Eli Rosen, a spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party.
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