The Great American Outdoors Act was just passed by both the Senate and the US House of Representatives, with the main goal of stabilizing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, also known as the LWCF. In 2019, Congress and the Administration approved permanent reauthorization for LWCF. Passage of the Great Outdoors Act achieves permanent full funding of $900M/year. Georgia Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, and other conservation organizations are celebrating the success of our advocacy work in passing the Great Outdoors Act!
“The LWCF has been one of the most successful conservation programs in our nation’s history,” remarks GWF President and CEO, Mike Worley. “In the last 50 years, every county in Georgia has received funding for an outdoor recreation project in spite of the program only being fully funded 3 or 4 times in its history.”
Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, believes this bill is a game-changer in the natural resources world and that “passing the Great American Outdoors Act is quite simply the most significant investment in conservation in decades. It’s a huge win for wildlife, our natural treasures, our economy, and all Americans, who enjoy our America’s public lands for solace, recreation, and exercise, especially amid this pandemic.”
This bill now awaits presidential signature to finalize it as a law, but in order to understand how amazing this accomplishment is, we want to remind our members about this future law’s history.
In 1958, American citizens’ concern for environmental health grew. They realized that local, state, and national parks were slowly getting run down, and pushed to create a mandate to protect our beautiful land; thus, the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) was created. This commission researched multiple components of treatment and after three years, they developed recommendations for a national recreation program, in hopes to restore our lands back to pristine condition.
However, funding proved difficult to come by, so in 1964 Congress established the Land and Water Conservation
Fund, to ensure the goals of the ORRRC could be met. This bipartisan commitment would use zero taxpayer dollars but instead would use earnings created from offshore oil and gas leasing. For the next 50 years, the LWCF stood strong and continued to receive extensions in both 2015 and 2018, until it was permanently reauthorized on March 12, 2019, for good. The LWCF has created numerous hiking and bike trails, created more land for hunting and fishing opportunities, and even has protected parks all over the nation, all despite facing numerous budget cuts each year. In fact, since the creation of the LWCF, over 22 billion dollars have been siphoned from the fund’s budget.
Click here to see exactly a live count on how much has been diverted to date.
But hope for proper funding was generated on March 3rd, 2020 when President Trump tweeted out his support for signing legislation that would guarantee permanent funding for both our National Parks and for the LWCF. With this in mind, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) quickly discovered a way to introduce and pass a joint bill in the Senate. This bill, known as the Great American Outdoors Act, was passed by Senate on June 17th and the US House of Representatives on July 22nd. The bill has now been sent to the President’s desk and is awaiting his signature to push this bill into law.
If signed, the Great American Outdoors Act will guarantee the full funding of $900 million annually to the LWCF while providing up to $9.5 billion for maintenance projects on public land. Full funding will ensure more opportunities for communities to get connected with wildlife in a safe way for both the people and the environment. More staff can be introduced into park settings, and projects to aid endangered species on public land can receive more funding as well. America’s lands are greatly benefiting from this legislation, and American citizens from all walks of life are too. This act will ensure all people have access to public lands and recreation opportunities while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in numerous communities. Duck’s Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam summarizes the entire bill from an environmentalist standpoint perfectly, “If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that America has some of the best and most vibrant natural scenery you can find anywhere in the world, particularly on our public lands. This bill will help us keep it that way. By addressing the maintenance backlog and fully funding the LWCF, Congress is ensuring these opportunities are available for future generations to enjoy while strengthening our outdoor economy for years to come.”
Thank you to the following sources for their information on this topic:
Funding LWCF. LWCFCoalition. Accessed July 25, 2020. https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/
Protecting Lands and Giving Back to the Communities. National Park Service. Accessed July 25, 2020. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/lwcf/index.htm#:~:text=The%20Land%20and%20Water%20Conservation,recreation%20opportunities%20to%20all%20Americans.
A Huge Win for Wildlife, Public Lands, the Economy and All Americans. National Wildlife Federation. Accessed July 25, 2020. https://www.nwf.org/Latest-News/Press-Releases/2020/07-22-20-GAOA-House-Passage#:~:text=The%20Great%20American%20Outdoors%20Act%20provides%20full%20and%20permanent%20funding,refuges%20and%20other%20public%20lands.
A Huge Win for Wildlife, Public Lands, the Economy and All Mississippians. Mississippi Wildlife Federation. Accessed July 25, 2020. https://mswildlife.org/a-huge-win-for-wildlife-public-lands-the-economy-and-all-mississippians/
DU applauds House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Ducks Unlimited. Accessed July 25, 2020. https://www.ducks.org/press-room/news-releases/du-applauds-house-passage-of-the-great-american-outdoors-act