A piece of legislation being lauded as a once-in-a-generation conservation bill by many outdoor and recreation groups is on its way to President Trump’s desk, where he has indicated in the past that he will sign it into law.
After the U.S. Senate voted decisively in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act on June 17, the U.S. House of Representatives did the same on July 22 with a vote of 310-107. The bill will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and allocate billions of dollars to help address a $12 billion maintenance backlog for national parks and other public lands.
“This remarkable conservation victory is one history won’t forget,” Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever President & CEO, said in a release. “It was accomplished because our community stuck together and rallied our members around this effort to keep the pressure on Congress. It’s a difficult time in America, but we have so much to be proud of today because we all took a step toward something great in protecting this country’s natural resources and outdoor heritage.”
The LWCF will be funded at $900 million per year to help provide conservation and recreation opportunities throughout the country. The money will come from royalties from oil and gas extraction on federal lands and waters.
The LWCF was established in 1965 and has helped fund everything from public land acquisitions and national parks, to community parks, trails and ball fields felt on a more local level. It has been historically underfunded, with money meant for the LWCF often going to other government programs.
Outdoor and conservation groups have pushed to change that for years, so permanently funding the LWCF at $900 million annually is considered a huge win for public lands and waters.
“This is an absolute giant of a moment for hunters, anglers and conservation as a whole,” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President & CEO Land Tawney said in a release announcing the passage of the bill. “Dedicating resources to the Land and Water Conservation Fund – in addition to addressing maintenance backlogs on public lands – is a win of a lifetime, and we owe a huge thanks to the American people who spoke up so loudly. We offer mountains of praise for all the members of Congress who listened to the people and worked across the aisle to get the Great American Outdoors Act to the president’s desk.
“This bipartisan and bicameral bill sets the stage for enhanced hunting and fishing opportunities on our public lands and waters where all Americans will have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors.”
Members of congress in favor of the bill on both sides of the aisle lauded the legislation as doing right by America’s public lands, but also as a way to help put people to work at an important time. Outdoor recreation contributes $778 billion in consumer spending and supports 5.2 million jobs nationally.