Daines, King Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Support Gateway Communities That Serve National Park Visitors

U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Angus King (I-Maine), the Ranking Member and Chairman, respectively, of the Senate’s National Parks Subcommittee, introduced the bipartisan “Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act”. The bipartisan bill will support gateway communities and address challenges facing national parks and public lands like increased visitation and housing shortages, boosting visitation at lesser-known parks and recreation areas and requires a digital version of the America the Beautiful annual pass.

“Montana’s national parks and public lands are the crown jewels of the United States, and our Montana gateway communities know firsthand the benefits and the challenges they bring. Just as we protect our great outdoors, we also must take care of the communities supporting our national parks, especially as they face record visitation that has put a strain on their businesses, employees and housing,” Senator Daines said.

“From the coasts of Acadia to the mountains of Yellowstone, public lands have given generations of Americans an opportunity to experience our country’s unparalleled natural beauty,” said Senator King. “With visitation to our parks continuing to grow, Congress must use every modern resource to preserve these lands and help more people enjoy them for generations to come. Publishing real-time crowd levels and expanding coordination with gateway communities are commonsense measures to improve sustainability, strengthen visitor experiences, and support rural economies across our country.”

Daines and King’s bipartisan bill does the following:

  • Establishes a Visitation Pilot Program at the Department of the Interior and Forest Service to address increased visitation by:
    • Working with communities, states, tribes, non-profits and stakeholders
    • Making visitation and crowd level data readily available for visitors
    • Provide suggestions for alternative, lesser-known national parks and federal, state and local recreation sites
  • Requires the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to coordinate with gateway communities to identify and address community needs such as:
    • Housing shortages
    • Demands on existing municipal infrastructure,
    • Accommodation and management of sustainable visitation 
  • Establishes a Digital version of the America the Beautiful Annual parks and public lands pass.

Read the bill text HERE.

Last year, Daines and King introduced the “Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act” and it later passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as part of a larger recreation package.

Statements of Support:

“We are fortunate to enjoy unprecedented interest in outdoor recreation across the United States, and no one knows this better than the gateway communities to our public lands and waters that help connect millions of Americans to the outdoors every year. The   Outdoor Recreation Roundtable applauds this forward-thinking legislation that will support local, state, and federal stakeholders to generate solutions that help gateway communities and the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy thrive.” – Chris Perkins, Senior Director, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

“This legislation would lay the groundwork for communities surrounding national parks and public lands to have additional tools at the ready to pursue long-term, sustainable solutions to support and enhance local infrastructure being pushed to the limits by the recent dramatic increase in visitors to many of these areas. Senators Daines and King have demonstrated terrific leadership on this issue by putting the focus on the needs of these essential communities where it belongs.” – Kent Ebersole, interim executive director of Outdoor Industry Association

“Our nation’s public lands are major economic drivers for gateway counties and help us fulfill our responsibility to provide services to residents and visitors alike. The Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act would support counties by collecting real-time visitation data at public lands sites, establishing a pilot program to promote tourism to lesser-known recreation areas, and creating a user-friendly digital America the Beautiful pass to grant visitors access to all our national parks and public lands. We urge Congress to pass this legislation and thank Senators Daines and King for their efforts to enhance economic opportunities for public lands gateway counties.” – Matthew Chase, Executive Director, National Association of Counties

“The national parks concessions industry applauds the re-introduction of the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act.  This legislation would issue vital direction to key federal officials to work with local governments, businesses, Tribes, and associations to share information and create partnerships that can expand the economic and other benefits created by access to national parks and other public lands.  The unique partnerships encouraged by this legislation can help expand visitor opportunities while mitigating challenges of unmanaged visitation and address our common goals, such as improving access to housing and other infrastructure needs. Innovative use of FLREA funds and local tourism taxes are key to enabling all visitors to enjoy unforgettable experiences during their visits to our public lands.” – Mindy Meade Meyers, Executive Director of the National Park Hospitality Association

“Public lands throughout the country are incredibly important for providing Americans with opportunities to recreate, including fishing. The recreational fishing industry is grateful to Sens. Daines and King for their leadership on the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act. Recreational fishing opportunities can be found in nearly every national park, forest and wildlife refuge, and modernizing visitation data at these facilities will allow both land managers and the public to better ensure quality fishing experiences.” – Glenn Hughes, President of the American Sportfishing Association

“In Montana, our public lands, federal and state, are major economic drivers and especially important to sustain our Gateway Communities.  As our outdoor recreation areas continue to increase in popularity, we need to prepare our infrastructure for the growth, leverage efficiencies utilizing technology, and use real time data to inform decision-making on visitor management. With this legislation, Senator Daines is leading the effort to ensure continued economic prosperity while protecting public lands including the assets that make Montana the last best place.” – Todd O’Hair, President and CEO, Montana of Chamber of Commerce

“Xanterra Travel Collection fully endorses people to discover nature and the outdoors to appreciate it and protect it.  It fully supports this bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing overcrowding in national parks and on public lands while also boosting awareness of lesser-visited recreation areas and surrounding gateway communities. All our natural treasures deserve protection and attention.” – Andrew N. Todd, President & CEO, Xanterra Travel Collection®

“Western Montana’s Glacier Country is an area that includes many communities considered to be ‘gateways’ to recreation destinations including Glacier National Park. As President CEO of Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission, I fully support the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act. At different times of the year, many of our communities are at a breaking point—housing shortages, unsustainable demands on infrastructure, negative impact on natural resources—and the positive economic impact of tourism is being negated by the toll on the communities. The dispersion of visitors to other recreational sites and regions and the collaborations inherent in this bill will be an important move towards long-term sustainable growth that balances quality of life for residents and quality of experience for visitors.” – Racene Friede, President CEO, Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission

“Increased visitation exacerbates our community’s infrastructure woes, specifically with regard to traffic congestion, parking shortages and public transit.  The Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act has the potential to play a vital role in helping our community to address these issues. For these reasons and more, we appreciate the re-introduction of this important piece of legislation and urge its immediate passage.” – Kevin Gartland, Whitefish Chamber of Commerce    

“The Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act provides Americans with considerable opportunities to access public lands. Visitors to our public lands nationwide, as well as the surrounding communities, will benefit measurably with the implementation of this act.  We are fortunate in Montana and specifically in Ravalli County, to have endless access to the outdoors experience provided by our public lands.  The enhanced technology and subsequent data will provide information to land managers, ensuring quality visits to public lands in Ravalli County, Montana and the nation.”

– Greg Chilcott, Ravalli County Commissioner

“Helena serves as the halfway point between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and I am thrilled to see the active support of communities like ours to identify the needs and economic impacts of supporting a destination market. We appreciate your consideration of this act and the bipartisan work of Senator Daines and Senator King to support our communities.” – Callie Aschim, President & CEO, Helena Area Chamber of Commerce

“The Flathead County Commissioners thank Senator Daines for reintroducing the Gateway Communities and Recreation Enhancement Act. The act will offer useful and needed tools for our communities located near and around the entrance to Glacier National Park. We appreciate his work on behalf of Flathead County.” – Flathead County Commissioners Brad Abell and Randy Brodehl

“The Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce is very excited to see a bill introduced to help our communities that face at times extreme challenges with the tourism numbers we see annually. Having a collaborative effort for managing it all will be just what might finally work.  We see our communities down the road with no real solution and our businesses, trails, roads, and economy continuing to struggle under the weight of travelers making demands and having needs in places they visit, but the communities have a need for support to cope with the impacts. A real effort for all will ensure our communities thriving for the future and coming together to achieve this is going to be a real celebration of America the Beautiful.” – Leslie Feigel, CEO Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center

The Senators also received letters of support from Powell County Commissioners, Southwest Montana, Beaverhead Chamber of Commerce and Beaverhead County Commissioners.

Contact: Matt LloydRachel DumkeBlake Kernen