We’ve been following the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill slated to improve trails and address a maintenance backlog in our public lands with billions of dollars in new funding. On July 22nd, 2020, The Great American Outdoors Act was passed by the United States House of Representatives with a vote of 310–107. Before it can become law, the bill must now be signed by the President, who has already voiced his approval of the legislation. The act was passed with bipartisan approval and is a great victory for the people of this country and the public lands we love.
The law will provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was enacted to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreational resources for American citizens. It will also create a new National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will provide up to $9.5 billion over five years to address the backlog of maintenance projects in our National Park System and on other public lands.
As if supporting our treasured public lands wasn’t enough of a cause for celebration, this new legislation will be a great boost to the economy. A recent National Park Service study found that investments made in deferred maintenance projects will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years. Additionally, for every $1 invested in the LWCF, there is a return of $4 in economic value from natural goods and services alone.1 With unemployment rates in the double-digits and an economy in dire need of support, this act couldn’t be passed at a better time.
“The Great American Outdoors Act will help meet the demand for accessible outdoor spaces, put people to work building and maintaining trails and parks across the country, and help create trail systems that provide lasting economic benefits. The pandemic has revitalized the importance of the outdoors. At the same time, it has highlighted how we don’t have enough trails close to home, and how the trails that exist aren’t always equally distributed,” said David Wiens, IMBA Executive Director.2