WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Congressman James Comer (KY-01) introduced the Land Between the Lakes Recreation and Heritage Act today. This legislation is designed to help Land Between the Lakes (LBL) secure more federal resources for internal recreation and maintenance needs. It also institutes a number of changes to preserve LBL’s natural heritage.

The bill establishes LBL as a separate unit of the National Forest System with an independent budget. To ensure the U.S. Forest Service devotes necessary funds to recreation and maintenance, it authorizes at least $8,000,000 each fiscal year for LBL. It also specifies that funds collected from charges and user fees at LBL will stay at LBL to perform new work or deferred maintenance.

The legislation changes the makeup of the LBL Advisory Board, requiring the board to consist of thirteen members and placing more control over the board at the local level rather than with the states or Washington, D.C. Members can serve multiple terms but not consecutive terms and must meet twice a year. To increase transparency and effectiveness, the board must distribute the notices and minutes of its meetings to the public and work with the Forest Service to develop an Annual Work Plan and Annual Forest Management Plan and discuss the balance and status of the LBL Management Fund.

Additionally, local communities have expressed concern over a lack of sufficient law enforcement personnel for the vast territory, forcing the unit to pull resources from surrounding counties. Last year the Forest Service conducted a Law Enforcement and Investigations program review in the recreation area which confirmed local officials’ worries and concluded that LBL needs to hire more public safety officers. This legislation encourages the Forest Service to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with state and local entities to clarify jurisdictional issues like policing and requires such a memorandum to be made public.

The bill also provides solace to the families of former residents of the LBL, better defining their status and expanding their access to cemeteries within the National Recreation Area’s boundaries.

“Land Between the Lakes is a crown jewel of tourism in Western Kentucky and holds historical significance for many families in the area. I’m proud to have worked with Senator McConnell and local leaders on legislation to preserve its rich tradition,” said Congressman Comer. “Our bill takes significant action to resolve issues at LBL through targeted funding, increased transparency, and improved law enforcement practices – along with provisions to preserve the area’s natural beauty. I look forward to passing this legislation through Congress and providing a strong boost to one of Kentucky’s signature landmarks.”

“As Kentucky’s senior Senator, I see it as my responsibility to ensure the Land Between the Lakes is well-funded, well-maintained, and well-preserved for generations to come. I’ve worked with local community leaders for decades to safeguard this important Kentucky landmark and advocated consistently to support their interests at the federal level. Today’s legislation, which I introduced alongside my good friend Congressman Comer, will go a long way toward alleviating the issues faced by the Land Between the Lakes and neighboring communities,” said Senator McConnell. “From increasing funding, to providing better oversight, to properly safeguarding the area’s heritage and natural resources, this legislation takes the best ideas from community stakeholders and will preserve LBL’s future. I look forward to leading it to passage in the United States Senate.”

“I would like to thank Senator McConnell and Representative Comer for their continued leadership, their willingness to continue to fight for the Land Between the Lakes, and their efforts to ensure protection and funding for the future. Most importantly, I deeply appreciate their willingness to help protect the Between the Rivers folks’ heritage,” said Trigg County Judge-Executive Hollis Alexander.

“Senator McConnell and Congressman Comer have worked together to ensure LBL will be protected and preserved for our future generations. They’ve assured local stakeholders will have a seat at the table when discussing the use of our land at LBL. Real people are about to start making decisions on the future of LBL and I couldn’t be more excited about the potential they’re going to realize there. This change in legislation will be the single most important piece of work we have accomplished at LBL regarding proper funding in years. It is a game-changer,” said Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White.

"The Friends of Land Between the Lakes greatly appreciates the efforts of Congressman Comer and Senator McConnell in restoring funds for the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in a recently drafted US House bill. Their strong support for the area is widely known. We remember and appreciate Sen. McConnell's successful efforts to secure funding when Land Between the Lakes was transferred from the Tennessee Valley Authority to the USDA Forest Service. We also appreciate the ongoing support of Rep. Comer at recent hearings. This effort will work hand-in-hand with the Friends of LBL's mission to provide education and stewardship for family oriented recreation in the National Recreation Area,” said Nan Waldrop, Incoming President of the Friends of Land Between the Lakes Board of Trustees.

"Land given to my family for service in the Revolutionary War was taken by force to create Land Between the Lakes. This was justified by a promise of what LBL would become. That promise failed. Those of us who lost our homes have worked for more than 50 years to turn LBL into what it was promised to be. This legislative change is the most promising step towards keeping the promise that was made in exchange for our cultural heritage I have ever seen,” said David Nickell, President of Between the Rivers.

LBL is a United States national recreation area in Kentucky and Tennessee covering 171,280 acres between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. For the two Kentucky counties encompassing LBL, Lyon and Trigg, the recreation area provides a site for activities like fishing, boating, camping, and hiking, and attracts millions of tourists each year. Senator McConnell has worked for decades to streamline and preserve funding for LBL. Congress passed the Senator’s Land Between the Lakes Protection Act into law in 1998 to put LBL under the stable administration of the U.S. Forest Service and provide significant federal resources to support its maintenance.