On Wednesday morning, Senators overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act, thanks in no small part to vocal support from the conservation, hunting, and fishing community. With 73 ayes, two absent, and 25 nays, this legislation now heads to the House of Representatives. Click here to read more about the bill.
The whole MeatEater crew would like to thank everyone who called or emailed or wrote letters or even shared information about this important act. Ryan Callaghan, conservation director, believes that, if signed, this will be the biggest funding mechanism to improve public access that any of us will ever see. It provides the important Land and Water Conservation Fund with its full, permanent $900 million annually, as well as nearly $2 billion annually to address maintenance backlogs on federal lands—all with royalties from oil and gas extraction.
The GAOA was introduced by two Republican Senators, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana, but enjoyed unanimous support among Democrats. In these fractured times, this seems to demonstrate the fact that public lands are the great unifier of the American people, common ground that we all share and enjoy.
But not every member of the high chamber of Congress felt that way. These were the Senators who voted against the GAOA: John Barrasso of Wyoming, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Kennedy of Louisiana, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jim Risch of Idaho, Mitt Romney of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Rick Scott of Florida, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Patty Murray of Washington did not vote, and the rest of the chamber voted in favor.
This is certainly cause to celebrate, but not time to take the foot off the gas. Theatrics could still transpire in the House, and though President Trump has declared his support for this bill, he has been known to change his mind. Now is the time to call your congressional representative’s office and find out how they plan to vote in the coming weeks when the House takes up this bill. You can reach the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
“Public lands are what bring us all together when other forces try to pull us apart,” Callaghan said. “We need more funding to manage those places so more people can get outside and enjoy the best things this great country has to offer.”
Feature image by Joe Ferronato.