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Overwhelmingly Bipartisan Bill Honors American Heroes


WASHINGTON, D.C., July 1, 2021 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) joined Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and 129 other members in introducing the bipartisan Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act, which would give veterans and Gold Star families free lifetime access to public lands, and active-duty military free annual passes.

"We can never fully repay our veterans for their service and sacrifice, but we want to show our gratitude by giving them lifetime access to America's most beautiful natural landscapes," Westerman said. "The VIP Act is also a testament to bipartisanship in action and proof that party lines don't need to interfere with our ability to honor American heroes who sacrificed so much to keep us free. I thank Congresswoman Miller-Meeks for her leadership on this bill and look forward to working with Chairman Grijalva to move it quickly through our committee."

"Veterans and active duty service members find solace, refuge and connection in our national parks and public lands," Grijalva said. "These treasured landscapes, monuments and memorials are healing spaces and iconic symbols that unite our nation and represent the best of what it means to be American. Providing the military community with free access is appropriate, and recognizing how public lands help our veterans heal is a good reminder that our parks and public lands deserve attention, investment and care. I look forward to working with my colleagues to increase public lands access and interest in conserving our shared heritage for future generations."

"As we celebrate our country’s freedom this weekend, it is important to remember the immense sacrifices that our veterans, active-duty servicemembers, and military families make every single day for the betterment of our nation," McCarthy said"I applaud Rep. Miller-Meeks for her efforts to ensure that the law reflects our gratitude for our heroes and their families."

"While we can never fully repay our veterans for the enormous sacrifices they have made serving our country and protecting our way of life, it’s essential that Republicans and Democrats do everything we can to help veterans and their families," Scalise said. "Ahead of Independence Day, I’m proud to support the VIP Act because it gives veterans, Gold Star families, and those actively serving our country a cost-free way to explore and enjoy public lands. This bipartisan legislation gives the American people an opportunity to say thank you to the brave men and women who defend our freedoms."

"As a 24-year Army veteran, I understand the sacrifices made by our military and their loved ones," Miller-Meeks said. "We owe so much to our amazing servicemembers, veterans, and their families; the Veterans In Parks Act is the least we can do. Our legislation would give servicemembers, veterans, and our Gold Star families free passes to all of our beautiful national parks and federal lands for life. I am proud to work with such a great bipartisan group of members on this commonsense issue to support those who sacrifice so much for our freedoms."

As a veteran, I know firsthand the importance of national parks as a place of connection and healing when dealing with the visible and invisible wounds of war," Gallego said. "The VIP Act is an important step in ensuring that veterans, service members, and Gold Star families have access to the public lands they and their loved ones fought to protect. I am proud to co-lead this bill and I will continue to fight for veteran accessibility and support on our nation’s public lands."

Background

The America the Beautiful Pass provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges. This includes some of the country's most iconic natural treasures, ranging from Acadia National Park to the Redwood National Forest. 

The VIP Act would allow all veterans, active-duty service members and Gold Star Families to visit national parks and public lands free of charge. In 2020, the Trump administration made the America the Beautiful annual pass free for veterans and Gold Star Families. However, this benefit for veterans has never been put into law and could be undone by a future administration. The VIP Act would turn these free annual passes into lifetime passes, as well as codify the annual passes for current service members. These can then be converted into lifetime passes once they leave the military.

At the time of introduction, 135 Republican and Democrat members cosponsored the VIP Act and 55 organizations supported the legislation.

Read the full bill here and a legislative summary here.


Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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