Just this week, the Senate passed a landmark bill allocating billions toward outdoor recreation in a vote of 73 to 25.
Senator Angus King of Maine says it may be the most important conservation bill in the last 50 years.
America’s natural beauty has been passed down from generation to generation; now, it’s our turn to protect these lands for our children, and their children. We’ve fallen short on this responsibility for too long – but that changes today. #GAOA pic.twitter.com/WwHGAMsb0b— Senator Angus King (@SenAngusKing) June 17, 2020
The Great American Outdoors Act specifies that $9.5 billion will be spent over the next five years in order to rectify any ongoing maintenance issues logged by the National Park Service and other federal land-management agencies.
The other part of the act will ensure that the pre-existing Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is permanently financed at its maximum annual budget rate of $900 million.
The bill comes after Trump’s proposed 2021 budget cut the Park Service budget by $587 million and allocated only 1.6 percent of its allotment to the LWCF.
To the surprise of many conservationists, the president made a 180 of sorts and called for such legislation back in March.
“I’m calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks,” he tweeted on March 3.
Proponents of the bill, including its sponsor, Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado, believe that that the Great American Outdoors Act will create jobs vital for Americans out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Years of bipartisan work have led to this moment and this historic opportunity for conservation… Today the Senate passed not only the single greatest conservation achievement in generations but also a lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gardner said on Wednesday.
Martin Heinrich, Democratic Senator from New Mexico agrees, “We are going to have to rebuild the economy, and this can be a really big part of that.”
He added that outdoor recreation in the US racks up $778 billion toward the GNP while supporting 5.2 million jobs, but “our trails and campgrounds aren’t in the shape that they should be, which directly impacts economic activity on public lands and in gateway communities.”
It’s no shock that conservationists are pleased with the bill.
Adam Cramer, executive director of the Outdoor Alliance said, “Our national parks are our country’s crown jewels, but the rest of our national public lands are what make up the actual crown. The amount and diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing on our national forests, BLM lands, and wildlife refuges, is staggeringly huge.”
Can’t go wrong there. Especially as the nation is beginning to make a comeback from the devastating effects of COVID-19, the bill is expected to prove beneficial to all Americans.
“We are seeing during the pandemic how important walking outside is to people’s well-being,” said Heinrich.
“Right now more than 100,000 kids in this country don’t have a park within a ten-minute walk of their house,” he said, noting that proposed funding for the LWCF will take care of that.
Senator King believes the legislation will have an impact for generations.
“This money is going to support the parks and also public lands that are going to benefit people we don’t even know,” he said, adding that our predecessors will not remember the lawmakers that fought to protect America’s land.
King continued, “They’re just going to know what a beautiful place this is. Thank goodness somebody had the foresight to set it aside so all Americans can enjoy it.”
The bill now goes before the House of Representatives and is expected to be signed into law by President Trump in the coming months.