July 29, 2021 –
Today, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the bipartisan Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa).
“There’s no way we can fully repay the men and women who sacrificed so much for our freedom, but the Alexander Lofgren VIP Act is one place to start. It’s not often Congress can agree on things, so the overwhelmingly bipartisan support for this legislation shows just how important it is. Giving veterans and Gold Star Families free lifetime access to America’s most beautiful landscapes is a tangible way to thank them for their service. I hope to see the Senate move this bill quickly through the legislative process.” – House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)
“Loss is always difficult, but I can think of no better way to memorialize Alex than to have this bill bear his name. Alex was a friend, colleague, photographer, and avid outdoorsman who saw national parks and public lands as a source of tranquility and peace for veterans like himself. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy will forever live on in this legislation that will allow countless veterans and gold star families to experience our national parks as places of healing, comfort, and security indefinitely. I’d like to thank Rep. Miller-Meeks for allowing me to celebrate Alex’s life with this legislation and my colleagues for ensuring its quick passage on the floor. I urge the Senate to act quickly, pass this legislation, and send it to President Biden’s desk for signature.” – House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
“I am thrilled to see my bipartisan Alexander Lofgren VIP Act pass the House today. We often say that we support the physical and mental health of our veterans, and it is great to see legislation pass that will do great things for the health of our heroes. Giving our veterans and Gold Star families free lifetime access to our incredible national parks will do wonders. I was proud to partner with a fellow veteran, Congressman Gallego, on this legislation and look forward to working to see this bill reach the President’s desk.” – U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa)
“Giving veterans and Gold Star families free access to the treasured landscapes of our national parks is a small but significant token of gratitude for their service to our country and the sacrifice that they and their families have made. Easy access to these public lands will offer our veterans, Gold Star families, and active-duty service members spaces to explore, enjoy, and heal. I am proud have co-led this bill and I will continue fighting for our veterans and to conserve the natural beauty of our public lands.” – U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.)
The America the Beautiful pass provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges. In 2020, the America the Beautiful annual pass became free for veterans and Gold Star Families. However, this change for veterans and active-duty military has never been codified and could be undone in future years.
The VIP Act protects these passes by codifying them and turning the veterans and Gold Star Families passes into lifetime passes instead of annual passes. The VIP Act also creates annual passes for current service members, which can be converted into lifetime passes once they leave the military.
At markup, an amendment was adopted to change the short title of the bill to honor Alexander Lofgren, a military and veterans liaison who worked for House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship program. Alexander tragically passed away earlier this year.
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