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Great American Outdoors Act Passes Senate and Pledges $9.5 Billion to Outdoor Rec

Congress pledged billions of dollars to support the National Park Service and other outdoor recreation-focused federal agencies. NPS photo.

The Great American Outdoors Act passed 73 to 25 in the Senate on June 17, allocating billions of dollars to outdoor recreation by funding the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The details of the bill grant $9.5 billion over the next five years to the NPS and a permanent $900 million annually to the LWCF. This is big news, as it will allow these agencies address maintenance backlogs and debts and continue to provide unparalleled access to the outdoors for Americans, as well as provide jobs and opportunities to mountain and desert communities hit hard by COVID-19.

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The Great American Outdoors Act promises to provide funding to projects run by the NPS, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Education, including trailbuilding, campground maintenance and other critical tasks. Funding these agencies is critical for maintaining and expanding mountain bike, climbing, river, and other recreational access to the lands we love to play in. Secondly, funding the LWCF will serve to fund all kinds of public land projects including bike trails, sports fields, and boat launches. 

For those who don't know what the LWCF does, see below from the NPS:

The LWCF was established by Congress in 1964 to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. Using zero taxpayer dollars, the fund invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help strengthen communities, preserve our history and protect our national endowment of lands and waters. The LWCF program can be divided into the State Side which provides grants to State and local governments, and the Federal Side which is used to acquire lands, waters, and interests therein necessary to achieve the natural, cultural, wildlife, and recreation management objectives of federal land management agencies.

The bill was sponsored by Colorado Republican Cory Gardner and Montana Republican Steve Daines, following a Tweet from the Trump administration that asked for a bill to be presented that could fund the LWCF and NPS. Like many other recent conservation and land-use bills, it experienced bipartisan support in the Senate. It now faces a vote in the House, where it will likely pass.

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