On August 4th, 2020 The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law by President Trump. This single piece of legislation marked a huge win for conservation efforts and was by far the biggest conservation legislation in a generation. But it was also more than that, it was security for our national parks, our wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and American Indian schools. This piece of legislation was massive step forward in securing all of these things for generations to come.
What Exactly is The Great American Outdoors Act?
The Great American Outdoors Act has two main components – The National Parks & Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund and The Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). These two components do two different things, but are complementary in nature.
The National Parks & Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund
The National Parks & Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund was specifically set up to address the backlog of maintenance that has been ongoing. This fund will provide $1.9 billion a year over five years to help reduce the overwhelming maintenance backlog on National Parks and other lands. As it stands, this fund will be divided as so:
- 70% towards National Parks
- 15% towards National Forests
- 5% towards Fish and Wildlife
- 5% towards the Bureau of Indian Affairs
- 5% towards the Bureau of Land Management
The Land & Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was set up in 1964 to support and protect federal public land and waters including National Forests, refuges, parks, and recreation areas as well as voluntary conservation on private lands. Through the passing of the Great American Outdoors Act, this fund is now funded at $900 million dollars a year, forever.
The $900 million annually is a huge increase from previous spending levels which had only reached that that level twice in the four decades the fund has been in existence.
What Does It Mean?
The two major components of the Great American Outdoors act combined are the single largest piece of conservation legislation in a generation. The National Parks & Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund and the Land & Water Conservation Fund will both reduce the major backlog of maintenance work that our public lands need as well as create a permanent funding source into the future.
The funding for the Great American Outdoors Act comes entirely from oil and gas leases and royalties, so it will not cost the taxpayers a thing either. Funding the conservation efforts with oil and gas money is somewhat of a double edged sword though and is a further reminder that the relationship between energy, the government, and conversation is a tangled one.
What Still Needs to be Done?
Without a doubt, this bill is a huge win for conservation, but that doesn’t mean that the work is over. There is still a ton of money, time, and resources need to preserve the public lands of America.
Afterall, the $9.5 billion dollars allocated to the National Parks & Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund is a little bit less than half of the overall estimated maintenance backlog.
Further, the $900 million a year that’s allocated towards the Land & Water Conservation fund will be subject to inflation, reducing it’s spending power each year.
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