Veterans Gain Access to Public Lands Via Measure in Defense Bill

From Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:

WASHINGTON – Military veterans and Gold Star families will gain lifetime access to thousands of federal recreation areas thanks to language included in the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate voted to advance today.

Led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and John Boozman (R-AR) and Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), the bipartisan Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act provides free annual America the Beautiful passes to current military service members and free lifetime America the Beautiful passes to veterans and members of Gold Star families.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which has worked with a broad coalition of stakeholders in support of the bill, commended the work by members of Congress to advance it.

“The Veterans in Parks Act is a great step toward connecting the military community to our public lands and waters by lowering the barrier of entry to national parks, forests and wildlife refuges,” said Trevor Hubbs, coordinator of BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative.

“BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative utilized America the Beautiful Passes for several of our Veterans Skills Camps in the past year,” continued Hubbs. “We could not be more excited to see this program offer lifetime passes to veterans and extend annual passes to current service members.

“National parks, forests and wildlife refuges are key places used by our Armed Forces Initiative to connect veterans to the outdoors through skill camps, habitat restoration projects and to elevate the voices of veterans in conservation – from town halls meetings to the halls of Congress,” Hubbs stated. “We thank members of Congress for helping the military community by passing the Veterans in Parks Act.”

The Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks Act was included in the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House of Representatives last week and unanimously passed the House as a standalone bill in July. Following today’s Senate vote it will advance to the president’s desk.

The America the Beautiful Pass provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, forests and wildlife refuges.

Established in 2020, BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative engages with all branches of active duty and veteran North American service members. The AFI provides a constructive outlet for current or transitioning service members to continue selfless service and enjoy the camaraderie of likeminded individuals, all while ensuring that they take active roles as public land owners.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.

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http://www.backcountryhunters.org/

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