WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Great American Outdoors Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video.
Click here to watch the video.
“Madam Speaker, I want to thank Chairman Raul Grijalva of the Natural Resources Committee for steering the legislation before us through his Committee and working with the Senate to get it passed through that body. I would also especially like to thank Reps. Joe Cunningham, Mikie Sherrill, T.J. Cox, Xochitl Torres Small, Kendra Horn, and Jared Golden for leading this legislation in the House, along with my good friend, Rep. Mike Simpson.
“It should be noted that the bill before us today bears the name of our dear, departed friend John Lewis, who understood that conserving America’s great outdoors and public spaces went part in parcel with protecting the legacy of civil rights. He was instrumental in protecting the childhood home, neighborhood, and church associated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta as part of our National Parks System, using the Land and Water Conservation Fund as a critical tool in that process. The Ebenezer Baptist Church and its visitor center are among the many sites in need of repair today. It was at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1957 that a young John Lewis joined Dr. King and other civil rights pioneers to create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. What an eerie and poignant coincidence the bill before us is numbered H.R. 1957.
“I like to think that John is still here with us, guiding us forward in spirit to continue on the good work he started in Congress some thirty years ago. Last year, when we enacted a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we made it clear that doing so was only the first in a two-step process. The second step was making sure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is permanently paid for. That’s what this bill today will achieve, with nearly a billion dollars annually in mandatory spending to sustain the fund and support critical federal, state, and local conservation projects across this nation. Not only that, but the bill creates a new fund that will help address the maintenance backlog in protecting some of our most iconic national parks. The impact of these investments will be felt not only in tourism and improved public access to our public lands but also in a cleaner and healthier environment over the long term.
“In my home state of Maryland, we have used the fund to protect some of our most historic sites, protecting nature so that every American might have the same opportunity to enjoy the sanctity of nature or connect with our history. I was proud to have worked to protect the viewshed of George Washington’s Mt. Vernon site permanently through the creation of Piscataway Park on Maryland’s side of the river. We also used the fund to protect the Patuxent Research Refuge, established to support wildlife research; Douglas Point in Nanjemoy; and countless sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. In all, Maryland has received over $230 million dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to preserve our state’s most treasured landscapes and historic places.
“This bill before us passed the Senate on a strong, bipartisan vote of 73-25, and I believe we will demonstrate similar, overwhelming support in the House later today. I urge all of my colleagues to join in making this critical investment in America’s public lands that will conserve them for the enjoyment of generations to come. I ask them to join me as well in helping to secure the legacy of our friend, John Lewis."