Press Release Dec 7, 2020

Parks Group Celebrates Bill Promoting Public Lands, Outdoor Spaces for Veteran’s Health and Wellness

This bill ensures millions of veterans and their families will get the resources they need to heal and benefit from America’s outdoor spaces.

Washington, D.C. – Today, the bipartisan Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act (H.R. 2435/S. 1263), which promotes healing outdoors for our nation’s veterans, was signed into law by President Trump. This bill, as part of the Veterans COMPACT Act, requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an interagency task force to provide recommendations to increase the use of public lands and other outdoor spaces for veteran’s health and wellness.

For nearly two years, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), other partners and veterans across the country have urged lawmakers to recognize the therapeutic value our national parks and public lands provide. Today’s passage is a major step towards ensuring that millions of veterans and their families will get the resources they need to heal and benefit from America’s outdoor spaces.

“Today’s passage is great news for veterans and veteran organizations across the country,” said Emily Douce, Government Affairs Director of Operations and Park Funding for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Every veteran in America deserves the opportunity to connect and experience the healing powers our national parks and public lands provide – the same places they have sacrificed their lives to protect. This legislation will do just that, helping veterans experience the positive benefits of nature and outdoor recreation as part of their recovery. We commend U.S. Senators Cortez-Masto (NV) and Daines (MT), and Representatives Smith (NJ) and Smith (WA) for their leadership in getting this legislation over the finish line, and their continued support for our nation’s veterans.”

National parks can play a critical role in the transition of soldiers to civilian life. Studies have shown that extended group-based nature recreation experiences can have significant positive impacts on veterans struggling with serious health problems, as well as help veterans reintegrate with civilian life. NPCA’s veterans program works to meaningfully engage the military community— including veterans, active duty, reservists and military families — in supporting national parks through service projects and a variety of advocacy actions.

For more information on NPCA’s veterans program and the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, visit:

Additional statements of support from our veteran partners:

Jim Deppe, U.S. Naval Academy Graduate and a Retired Navy Captain, Virginia Beach, VA: “The Accelerated Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act is a critical piece of legislation that will set the stage for important interagency coordination in the delivery of preventative care, medical treatment, and therapy to our Veterans, taking advantage of our amazing National Parks and public lands in the process. Having completed nine extended shipboard deployments in my Naval career, I can’t overstate the importance of returning home, gathering my family, and taking advantage of the incredible landscapes, waterways, and trail systems offered by our National Parks. Outdoor spaces can play a crucial role in a service member’s healing and re-immersion into both family and society after an arduous overseas deployment.”

Linh Thai, City Impact Manager for The Mission Continues (West), Seattle, WA: "As a first-generation immigrant and a 10 year veteran of the U.S. Army, I and many veterans I know have come to depend greatly on our national parks to reconnect with each other and to heal many of the unseen scars and traumas connected to our time of service. The passage of the Accelerated Veterans Recovery Outdoors (AVRO) Act will begin the necessary and crucial institutional collaboration to ensure that veterans like myself continue to have access to our National Parks, more than just to recreate, but as vital healing therapeutic settings to our odyssey to a place called home!”

Patrick Ketchum, Senior City Impact Manager, The Mission Continues “Outdoor recreation has been shown to be an effective way to treat Veteran issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. The Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act will make it much easier for Veterans to be able to access public spaces so they can heal in nature. I can say from personal experience that nature is a very powerful place to recover from trauma.”


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

Read more from NPCA