The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Great American Outdoors Act by a margin of 310 to 107. This historic bill now moves to the desk of President Trump, who tweeted in favor of the bill today and is expected to sign it into law.
This legislation, which has been called the biggest thing to happen to public lands in a generation, includes full and permanent funding at $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $9.5 billion over five years for the restoration of national parks and other federal public lands. None of that money comes from taxpayer dollars; it is all derived from royalties paid by energy companies on the oil and natural gas they extract from public lands and waters. You can see the list of the votes in favor and against here.
The bill passed the Senate on June 17 by a 73-to-25 margin. Conservation and sporting groups around the country have cheered its progress and are excited to see the benefits it will provide. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has contributed dollars to some 40,000 access and recreation projects in every county in the U.S. in its 56-year history, from wilderness trailheads to city playgrounds. Many Americans are hopeful that this cash infusion into public lands infrastructure will create thousands of new jobs.
The LWCF has a long history of bipartisan support. Its permanent reauthorization last year also passed with a wide margin and vocal supporters on both sides of the aisle. The GAOA and its full and permanent LWCF funding provision was introduced in the Senate by Republicans Corey Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana with the support of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump. Every Democrat but one in the Senate voted in favor alongside many of their Republican colleagues—a rare show of magnanimous bipartisanship in these polarized times. Cosigners and champions of the legislation in the House came from both parties as well.
“This is conservatively one of the biggest things that’s happened in conservation in the last 50 years,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “From the coastal low country of South Carolina and Representative Joe Cunningham, to Mike Simpson, conservative republican from Idaho, to Torres-Small, to the heartland American and Congressman Stivers, this is an issue that has really brought everyone together.”
MeatEater’s director of conservation, Ryan Callaghan, echoed the gratefulness that both parties—and millions of Americans they represent— united around conservation and public lands.
“Thank you to the Senators and members of Congress that were able to put partisan politics aside in order to pass the Great American Outdoors Act,” Callaghan said. “With much-needed funding to restore our parks and forests and refuges, as well as funding of LWCF, this is truly landmark legislation that will help to ensure the future of public lands and access to them. I am hoping that President Trump signs this one immediately.”
Feature image by Sam Lungren.