The Great American Outdoors Act is a bipartisan bill that was introduced to the US Senate in early March of 2020. The bill was originally intended to provide funding for the maintenance backlog in our National Park Service. Its reach has since been expanded to include funding for other public lands, including the BLM, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service as well as the Bureau of Indian Education. Most importantly, should it become law, the Great American Outdoors Act would permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (signed in 1964) was enacted to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreational resources for American citizens. The program, which is primarily funded with offshore oil and gas lease revenue, is responsible for protecting, and, at times, expanding parks, wildlife refuges, critical waterways, and other recreation areas on the national, state, and local levels. The LWCF is authorized to receive and distribute up to $900 million each year, but the fund is subject to congressional budget appropriations, and Congress has only provided full funding once in its history. If the Great American Outdoors Act becomes law as currently written, that $900 million will become fully dedicated to the LWCF, which is great news for outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists.
Due to the urgent needs of Congress to respond to the coronavirus, the bill has been held up in the Senate since March. It now appears likely that the Senate will move forward with a vote on the bill this week. If you have not yet reached out to your legislators on this issue, there may still be time to let your voice be heard on this landmark conservation legislation.