Jun 23, 2020

Senate Passes the Great American Outdoors Act

The Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, 73 to 25

water conservation

The Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which allocates billions of dollars to support outdoor recreation. 

The Great American Outdoors Act combines two previous bills, according to the Nature Conservancy. The first bill would provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The second bill is the Restore Our Parks Act, which would invest $1.9 billion annually for the next five years in deferred maintenance for lands managed by the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education. 

The bill is known as S. 3422, passing by a vote of 73 to 25.

“Years of bipartisan work have led to this moment and this historic opportunity for conservation,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado. “Today the Senate passed not only the single greatest conservation achievement in generations but also a lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a version of the legislation in the House of Representatives on Jun. 4, 2020. The passage of this version is expected in the next few weeks. 

According to Democratic senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, nationally, outdoor recreation contributes $778 billion in consumer spending and supports 5.2 million jobs.  

“Our trails and campgrounds aren’t in the shape that they should be, which directly impacts economic activity on public lands and in gateway communities,” Heinrich added.

The LWCF has been funded to its maximum $900 million annual allotment only twice in its history and generally averages about $450 million a year, according to the Nature Conservancy. The portion of the bill that funds maintenance backlogs on federal public lands intended to help pay down the National Park Service’s $12 billion maintenance backlog with oil and gas royalties from public lands. 

The bill makes funding for the LWCF permanent, so the President will annually report to Congress specified details regarding the allocation of funds to the LWCF.

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