It was a remarkable day for America’s beloved national parks: President Donald Trump signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957), a bill that will provide a dedicated source of funding to address the deferred maintenance backlog in National Park Service (NPS) sites and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Following the signing, Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed a proclamation designating August 4 “Great American Outdoors Day,” an annual admission fee-free day that celebrates this monumental victory for our country’s public lands.
As I joined the small proclamation signing ceremony at the Department of the Interior, I could sense that I was witnessing an historic moment in our nation’s conservation efforts.
The national parks started as a bold, forward-thinking idea to preserve and protect America’s rapidly shrinking wilderness. And here we are today, more than 100 years later, carrying on the worthy mission of the national parks so Americans will always know the history and natural beauty of our great country. The funding provided by the Great American Outdoors Act will ensure access for generations to come and meet the growing demands of parks and recreation travelers.
U.S. Travel is deeply grateful for the bipartisan efforts to pass this bill and for the White House’s earnest, early support. We’d like to thank President Trump, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) for their leadership in passing this historic measure in the midst of a challenging legislative calendar.
In an otherwise tough year for the travel and tourism industry, this is an undeniable bright spot. The signing of this bill will go a long way in ensuring a more prosperous, sustainable future for our country’s beautiful public lands—and it could not have come at a better time.
A new national park visitation trends tracker from U.S. Travel Association, Rove Marketing and Uber Media shows that visitation at select national parks is climbing as Americans seek healthy, responsible ways to travel during the pandemic. An August 3 Destination Analysts study also found that, among those traveling in 2020, nearly 23% plan to visit a national park.
In addition to being a top summer travel destination, the national parks have great significance to our economy, too. National park visitation supports gateway communities that rely on visitor spending to fuel their local economies—last year alone, spending by more than 327 million visitors delivered $41.7 billion to the economy and supported 340,500 jobs. The signing of the Great American Outdoors Act and the establishment of a fund to address the parks’ deferred maintenance backlog will benefit these communities greatly.
U.S. Travel once again expresses our deepest gratitude to our congressional champions and the administration for their tireless, bipartisan efforts to preserve America’s national parks for generations to come.