June 17, 2020

Hirono-Backed Great American Outdoors Act Passes Senate

Bipartisan bill addresses Hawaii conservation and public land priorities, funds NPS deferred maintenance, permanently and fully funds LWCF

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, voted to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, bipartisan legislation she cosponsored that will address the National Park Service’s (NPS) nearly $12 billion in deferred maintenance, permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and fund deferred maintenance needs in other agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. 

The deferred maintenance backlog for Hawaii National Park Service projects totaled more than $165 million as of 2018.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $260 million in conserving some of the most critical assets in Hawaii over the last five decades and permanent, full funding is needed to continue that important work for our future generations. We must also maintain our beloved places like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, and the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. The support that this bill provides for Hawaii’s natural resources is critically needed and long overdue,” Senator Hirono said.

“Residents of Hawaii and millions of people from all over the world visit the Hawaiian islands every year to enjoy our national, state, and local parks. These landscapes are incredibly important to our local culture and sense of place. Landscape architects take great pride in the work we do to design, maintain, and protect these spaces. But too often, these parks fall into disrepair due to lack of funding,” said Simon M. Bussiere, President of the Hawaii Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). “The Great American Outdoors Act will go a long way to fixing these problems by permanently and fully funding LWCF and providing critical funds for park infrastructure. ASLA is proud to support this bill. We thank Senator Hirono for sponsoring it and for her years of leadership on the conservation and protection of public lands.”

"LWCF is an integral part of creating parks and protecting land for people in Hawaii and across the country. Thanks to this funding source, we've been able to protect some of our state's most special places, such as Waimea Native Forest on Oahu’s North Shore, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, Haleakala National Park on Maui, and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail on Hawaii Island. Senator Hirono has been a koa for LWCF and we are incredibly thankful for her support of permanently and fully funding LWCF," Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands State Director of the Trust for Public Land said.

Senator Hirono has repeatedly called for addressing the deferred maintenance backlog and the need to provide full funding to LWCF as a member of the ENR Committee, including at a 2018 ENR hearing on the Fiscal Year 2019 Department of the Interior budget and a 2018 ENR hearingon the deferred maintenance and operational needs of the National Park Service. The Senator also highlighted LWCF’s critical protection of Hawaii’s natural resources during a speech on the Senate floor in February 2019. Senator Hirono supported full funding of these programs as legislation passed out of ENR last year. She has supported efforts to protect natural lands throughout her service in government, and signs onto letters to appropriators each year requesting robust funding for LWCF. The Senator also received 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters on their 2019 environmental scorecard.

The Senator introduced an amendment to the Great American Outdoors Act to clarify that deferred maintenance projects using public-private partnerships include organizations with qualified youth and conservation corps, like Kupu in Hawaii. While the amendment was not adopted, Senator Hirono will continue to advocate for utilizing conservation corps in completing maintenance projects. Last month, Senator Hirono announced that Hawaii would receive more than $4 million in AmeriCorps funding, of which Kupu would receive approximately $2.29 million, serving more than 250 AmeriCorps members.