The United States House of Representatives will vote on the Great American Outdoors Act on Wednesday, July 22, the Speaker’s office announced this week. The legislation passed the Senate on June 17 by a 73 to 25 margin. Read our past coverage of the bill to learn why Conservation Director Ryan Callaghan thinks this could be the biggest thing to happen to public lands in our lifetimes. You can read the text of the bill here (it’s pretty short).
The House version of the GAOA currently has 235 cosponsors, including congressmen and women from both parties. You can see the list of supporting members here and search by your state. If you don’t find your representative, you can quickly and easily reach their office by dialing (202) 224-3121 and asking the staffer who answers. While you have them on the line, we suggest encouraging them to cosponsor or vote in favor.
With 290 votes in favor, a two-thirds supermajority, the House could pass the bill under suspension of the rules, meaning debate would be limited to 40 minutes and no new amendments could be introduced. A small yet vocal minority of avowedly anti-public lands legislators have expressed their vehement opposition to this bill and may try to derail it with damaging amendments if they are not limited by suspension.
It’s widely believed that if the Great American Outdoors Act passes out of Congress, the president will sign it into law. In March, Donald Trump tweeted his support for permanently funding the LWCF, which in part spurred action on the legislation in the first place.
There are two components of the Great American Outdoors Act. First, it would provide full and complete funding for the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund, putting $900 million in royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling annually into public access and recreation opportunities, from city playgrounds to wilderness trailheads. In its 55-year history, the LWCF has contributed money toward more than 40,000 such projects.
The second component is the creation of the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will put unobligated federal revenue from energy production on public lands toward addressing the deferred maintenance backlog on public lands—to the tune of nearly $10 billion over the next five years. Most of that will go toward fixing broken infrastructure within national parks, but the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Education will also receive a share.
The American Wildlife Conservation Partners, a collection of the top 50 conservation groups, just this week released their “Wildlife in the 21st Century” document, a series of recommendations for the next White House Administration and next two Congresses related to wildlife. “Secure permanent and dedicated funding for conservation from public and private sources” is the first and foremost directive.
The MeatEater crew believes the Great American Outdoors Act is a really big deal. If you do any hunting, fishing, hiking, or recreation of any sort on public lands, you owe it to those places to call your congressional representative today. Again, that number is (202) 224-3121. It really does make a difference.