Great American Outdoors Act heads to president’s desk

The House of Representatives has passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which would fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide money for federal maintenance of recreational infrastructure such as roads, trails, campsites and more.

This move follows an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in support of the bill in the Senate last month. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

The landmark conservation legislation combines the “Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act” (H.R. 1225), which would provide five years of funding for federal land and resource management agencies to perform deferred maintenance on federal lands, with dedicated, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Wildlife Society has long supported both pillars of this legislation. Last month, TWS joined partners in writing to Congressional leadership expressing support for the GAOA and urging its swift adoption. 

Under the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund would receive full funding — $900 million annually — for the first time since it was enacted in 1964. The program, with funding from offshore oil and gas revenue, is the primary source of money used by federal, state, and local governments to acquire lands for conservation, including wildlife habitat and public access to natural areas.

The bill also establishes a five-year trust fund, which will be used to begin addressing the $20 billion maintenance backlog for national parks, national wildlife refuges and public lands. Funding from this bill would go toward infrastructure needs such as visitor center repairs, damaged fences, broken boardwalks, trail repairs and many other projects.

Header Image: Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. Meg Van Ness