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Great American Outdoors Act Preserves Nation's Natural Heritage

Jul 23, 2020

WASHINGTON-DC - As the re-start of America's past-time approached, federal lawmakers stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun for the environment, outdoor recreation and the preservation of America's most special natural resources.


GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOORS ACT PRESERVES NATION’S NATURAL HERITAGE

WASHINGTON-DC - As the re-start of America's past-time approached, federal lawmakers stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun for the environment, outdoor recreation and the preservation of America's most special natural resources.

In a landmark day for conservation, a bipartisan Congress voted 310-107 Wednesday in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act that funds national parks and public land maintenance and includes full, permanent and equitable allocations for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The re-authorized LWCF, as approved in 2019, now includes substantial, permanent funding as originally intended for state and local recreation and natural resource protection efforts. The Act, which passed in the Senate last month, commits $900 million a year on land and water conservation and outdoor recreation access will be sent to the President’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

“This is a tremendous outcome for communities across the country that benefit from the economic, cultural and recreational value of America’s public lands and facilities,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director the of the National Association of State Park Directors. “Congressional leadership, spearheaded by Senator Lisa Murkowski chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Raul Grijalva, chair of the House Committee of Natural Resources, is to be commended for vision in making sure this country’s most special places are protected in perpetuity and recreational lands and facilities are available in communities, large and small, and appropriately funded.”

Originally authorized in 1965, LWCF has endured despite years of uneven funding. Since that time, LWCF has conserved iconic landscapes in every state; protected national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness, monuments and battlefields; and supported community investments in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities. Its future had been in doubt since the original authorization expired in 2015. Now, LWCF will be a promise fully kept, as a permanent commitment to conservation, recreation and community needs that for too long have been unmet.

Many conservation organizations have long sought this outcome. The National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers has been an valuable partner in the overall effort, according to Ledford.

NASORLO is an organization that represents the states and territories and is a liaison to the National Park Service in the administration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in funding outdoor recreation at the state and local government level.

“The passing of this milestone bill is a true testament to the power of grassroots efforts and local communities coming together to showcase the tremendous value of outdoor recreation,” Linda Lanterman, Kansas State Parks director and president of NASORLO. “These funds will materialize campgrounds, ball fields, and playgrounds in both urban and rural communities, having a direct benefit on youth and families and state and local parks. I’m thrilled to finally see equitable funding for the spaces that continue to add so much to our quality of life. What a win.”

With this legislation, the original vision of LWCF will at last be realized. National parks, forests and wildlife refuges will be secured and local communities will have more resources to meet their recreation needs and the confidencecto make long-term investments to protect their water supplies, adapt to a changing climate and strike a needed balance between development and protection. Historical sites will be preserved to educate future generations. And sportsmen and women will no longer be frustrated by obstacles to public hunting and fishing access.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the nation’s premier conservation program, responsible for protecting parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas at the federal, state and local level. For more than 50 years, it provided critical funding for land and water conservation projects, recreational construction and activities and the continued historic preservation of our nation’s iconic landmarks from coast-to-coast. LWCF does not use any taxpayer dollars – it is funded using a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments. Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation activities contribute more than $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 7.6 million jobs.