Truth Check: Sen. Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act ad

Truth Check

DENVER (KDVR) — The Truth Check team continues to look at the candidates and their commercials in the 2020 election. Every advertisement that claims something — we will research and determine if the ads are actually telling the truth.

You can watch our previous “Truth Check” segments here and you can read our criteria and standards here.

The latest Truth Check is about Sen. Cory Gardner’s new ad that touts what he said he did to get the Great American Outdoors Act passed. The act is set to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and set aside nearly $10 billion to address the maintenance backlog at national parks. Both the House and Senate have overwhelmingly approved the bill and President Donald Trump has said he’ll sign it.

Congress created the fund in 1964 to buy and maintain public land for national parks, recreation and more. It’s also supposed to create a matching grant program for local and state parks. For instance, Colorado used the grant to pay for the off-leash dog area at Cherry Creek State Park. Congress is supposed to give the fund $900 million every year. Most of that money comes from offshore oil and gas leases.

CLAIM #1 

Ever since Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Congress took the fund’s money and spent it on other things

Exact quote in ad: “In 1964, Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And for the next five decades, they stole its money, raided it for everything but the environment.”

Verdict: Not exactly

Reason: Congress has diverted billions of dollars out of the fund – $22 billion, as a matter of fact, according to this Congressional report from last year. But Congress gave the fund more than its $900 million for the fiscal year 2001 and has given the fund nearly $19 billion since it was created.

CLAIM #2

Congress can’t take money away from the Land and Water Conservation Fund ever again

Exact quote in ad: “They’ll never be able to do that again.”

Verdict: True

Reason: The bill specifically says that “any amounts deposited in the fund…shall be made…to carry out the purposes of the fund.”

CLAIM #3

Sen. Gardner got the Great American Outdoors Act passed

Exact quote in ad: “Cory Gardner, he got the tough job done.”

Verdict: True

Reason: Gardner is the main sponsor of the bill and it passed a very divided House and Senate with overwhelming support. However, Gardner didn’t do it alone. He had 56 co-sponsors, including Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, when he introduced the bill in March. Gardner even got an influential tweet from Trump, who supported the bill.

CLAIM #4

The funding for forests and parks is permanent

Exact quote in ad: “Permanent funding for forests, parks.”

Verdict: True

Reason: This is very similar to Claim #2. Again, the language in the bill basically states that any money given to the Land and Water Conservation Fund must be spent on it. A future Congress could always pass a bill to change that, however.

CLAIM #5

Every environmental leader supports the bill

Exact quote in ad: “Endorsed by every environmental leader.”

Verdict: Not Exactly

Reason: Yes, hundreds of environmental groups do support the bill. They submitted an 11-page letter to Congress to prove it. But a few environmental groups, particularly those that also have ties to ranching, are against the bill. This includes the Public Lands Council. Its secretary, Delta County rancher Mark Roeber, explained his reasoning in an op-ed in The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction). Roeber wrote, in part, “Coloradans should be outraged. Handing federal agencies hundreds of millions of dollars without any checks and balances will only end in heartache.”

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