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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Congress Passes Landmark Great American Outdoors Act

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Great American Outdoors Act by a vote of 310-107, approving $900 million in annual funding. This final vote on the legislation sends the Great American Outdoors Act to President Trump for his signature.

The legislation will definitively fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is an important source of federal funding to create and develop local parks, trails, boat launches, sports fields and other recreation areas and park infrastructure that enrich our communities.

Securing dedicated, full funding for the LWCF has been a major goal of the conservation community for decades. When the LWCF was created, Congress intended for $900 million from offshore oil and gas royalties to be used each year for conservation projects, but this level of funding was never realized and more than $20 billion in LWCF funds have been diverted elsewhere. Still, in its 50-year history, the LWCF has conserved land in every U.S. state and supported more than 41,000 state and local park projects.

“NRPA has worked for decades to ensure full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and, today, we are thrilled to see it through to fruition thanks to the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Kristine Stratton, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association. “This marks a huge win for our more than 60,000 members and advocates, who work tirelessly to serve the public through park and recreation opportunities in urban and rural communities throughout the country. More importantly, it is a huge win for every person in our country, as this critical funding advances our goal of ensuring everyone has access to the benefits of quality parks and recreation.”

A recent NRPA poll found that 83 percent of U.S. adults agree that visiting their local parks, trails and open spaces is essential for their mental and physical well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today’s historic vote is the culmination of years of hard work by OIA and many businesses and organizations coming together to protect and expand access to America’s outdoors,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of OIA. “This legislation has the added benefits of providing local communities a much-needed economic boost; creating thousands of jobs; and opening up access to parks, trails and waterways across the country.”

“This is a historic victory over 50 years in the making for communities across the country that benefit from the economic, cultural and recreational value of America’s public lands and close-to-home recreation,” said Tom Cors, director of government relations for lands at The Nature Conservancy and a spokesperson for the LWCF Coalition. “Despite years of uneven funding, LWCF has conserved iconic landscapes in every state; protected our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness, monuments and battlefields; and supported community investments in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities. Now, LWCF will be a promise fully kept, as a permanent commitment to conservation, recreation and community needs that for too long have fallen through the cracks. And, it will do all this while driving job creation and economic recovery efforts our country needs right now.”

The LWCF Coalition applauded bipartisan champions including Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), as well as House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), House leadership “and a host of longstanding supporters on both sides of the aisle.”

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