House of Representatives passes Great American Outdoors Act to permanently fund public lands

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On Wednesday, the House voted 310 to 107 to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, after it previously passed the Senate, ensuring national parks and public lands receive the funding they need for years to come. Lauded as the biggest conservation win in a generation, the bill permanently funds the $900 million annual Land and Water Conservation Fund and establishes the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund which will direct up to $9.5 billion in additional funding over the next five years to address the most pressing repairs needed in national parks and on other public lands.

“Our national parks and public lands are incredible shared resources,” Anders Reynolds, Southern Environmental Law Center’s Federal Legislative Director, said in a statement. “They provide outstanding recreational opportunities for tens of millions of outdoor enthusiasts, supporting the economies of countless local communities while also preserving sensitive ecosystems and habitats from over-development. It’s past time we devoted the appropriate resources to their upkeep.” 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund directs royalties from oil and gas drilling toward the conservation of public lands. “Once signed into law, this bill will dedicate nearly $1 billion per year to address a variety of needs; from neglected hiking trails and visitor infrastructure in popular national parks, to U.S. Forest Service projects that ensure clean watersheds for local communities, to the restoration of coastal marshes that protect against flood waters,” said Reynolds. 

Currently, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited national park in the country, faces a maintenance backlog of $236 million. Shenandoah National Park faces a maintenance backlog of over $90 million. 

The bill is now with President Trump who has indicated he will sign it into law. 

(Photo: Morning light spills out over the Appalachian mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Blooming Mountain Laurel in the foreground and a bank of fog in the distance. By aheflin courtesy of Getty Images.)

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