Things are moving along for the Great American Outdoors Act.
On Wednesday the Senate passed the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, hoping direct billions in resources towards support for outdoor recreation on public lands.
The vote was 73-25, and the bill will now leave its fate to the House of Representatives.
Specifically, the Great American Outdoors Act is a two-pronged effort. First, it's ensuring $9.5 billion goes to the National Park Service and other federal land-management agencies for their backlogged maintenance needs and requirements. Long overdue in some places like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, these maintenance backlogs have reached some $20 billion.
The other objective of the Act addresses the the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), long viewed as the most vital source of funding for outdoor rec in the U.S., and allows the Fund to be permanently financed to its maximum allotment ($900 million) every year.
The LWCF gets its revenue through oil and gas exploration fees paid to the federal government.
U.S. Senate Passes Great American Outdoors Act
It's a sign that wilderness conservation is of high importance to today's lawmakers, and hopefully a harbinger of a passing House vote and a signature from President Trump.
"This isn't a bill that just benefits the East or the West, a bill that just benefits the coastal states or the interior states," said Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, the bill's lead sponsor, as quoted in USA Today. "The entire country, from Hawaii to Alaska (and) from Florida to Maine, everywhere in between, benefits from the Great American Outdoors Act."
Too often, the money meant to go to the maintenance and upkeep of National Parks ended up diverted to other priorities. These measures go a long way in ensuring our natural resources are preserved for future generations.
"Park roads and bridges are collapsing, water systems are failing, and visitor centers are crumbling," said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. "This momentous bill not only provides an opportunity to better care for these treasured places, it will help to increase access to public lands across the country, provide jobs and bring much-needed relief to local communities suffering through hard times."
Helping Recreation Communities Across the U.S.
Aside from aiding federal public lands themselves, it's also the surrounding communities that rely on outdoor tourism that could use assistance. The coronavirus pandemic shut things down, and serious recovery efforts will need to take place to see campgrounds, fishing and hunting outfitters, and other establishments survive the season.
But in reality, it's the basic maintenance efforts that have caused struggle and strife, in some ways turning people off of the idea of outdoor rec because of a bad experience.
As USA Today put it:
Every state, several U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have projects on the list. Nearly two dozen, including Yellowstone in Wyoming, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the National Mall in Washington, Yosemite National Park in California and the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi have a backlog well above $100 million.
Bipartisan support isn't easy to come by in today's political climate, but the Great American Outdoors Act is a common sense move that's been desperately needed.