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What You Need to Know About the Great American Outdoors Act

Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on August 4th, 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act became what supporters refer to as the “most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.”

By: Lysianne Peacock + Save to a List

The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, being co-sponsored by 59 senators consisting of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. The Great American Outdoors Act established the National Park and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund. There are two major components to the law: to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and to restore our national parks. This new law will greatly improve our access to trails and public lands through funding by energy development revenues. Here is everything you need to know about the Great American Outdoors Act, and what it means for the future of our public lands.

Major Component 1: Funding of the LWCF

Established in 1964, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, the LWCF is a program that works in conjunction with federal, state, and local agencies to protect our public lands and water--including national parks, national forest, historical and cultural sites, wildlife refuges, American Indian schools, and recreation sites--through funding and resources to meet conservation and recreation needs. The Great American Outdoors Act will provide the LWCF with $900 million per year to invest in conservation and recreation needs.

Major Component 2: Restoring the National Parks

Our parks are in need of maintenance. With the increase in visitors and not enough staff or resources, our parks are seeing a decrease in facility and trail quality. There is nearly $22 billion in backlog maintenance projects across our national parks and public lands. When there was the possibility of increasing parks fees to accommodate the wear and tear, there was significant backlash. This bill will provide $9.5 billion a year across five years to provide maintenance for critical facilities.The Great American Outdoors Act is the breath of fresh air our public lands need. 

What Does This Mean for the Future of Our Public Lands?

The Great American Outdoors Act might just be our chance to get public lands right. With an increase in access to recreation sites we will see more diversity in the outdoors. Additionally, with regular maintenance, our parks will be able to be enjoyed by all.

Increased Access to the Outdoors and Nature

With a 240 percent increase to the LWCF (MinnPost, 2020), this will increase access to public lands by providing communities with the necessary funding to put a green space or park in communities with little to no access to outdoor recreation. This might be our chance to make the outdoors more equitable for communities of color. 

Regular Maintenance Equals Enjoyment For All

With nearly 327 million visitors a year to our national parks, without this funding, it would be impossible to keep up with the necessary maintenance and repairs needed for our public lands. This bill will make sure that our public lands and facilities are kept in good condition for all to enjoy. 

Originally published at out-spiration.com.

Resources

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/legal/great-american-outdoors-act.htm

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/annual-visitation-highlights.htm#:~:text=In%202019%2C%20the%20National%20Park,(behind%202016%20and%202017).

https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/

https://americanhiking.org/advocacy/great-american-outdoors-act/

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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