One of the largest conservation bills drafted in recent memory was signed into law today, ending a months-long process that began in June, when the measure was first approved by the U.S. Senate.
The Great American Outdoors Act guarantees mandatory, permanent financing of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million a year and earmarks $1.9 billion annually for the next five years to address maintenance backlogs on public lands administered by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education.
“The Great American Outdoors Act is now law, and that’s no small accomplishment," said Environment America conservation program director Steve Blackledge today. "There’s finally a lock and key on money that was always intended for conservation projects—yet, for decades, has been consistently diverted to other purposes. This new law is not only a major investment in outdoor spaces but also in every American’s physical and mental health. It’s a decisive step toward acknowledging that our lives are made richer if surrounded by more nature, more open spaces, whether it’s a local park or the Grand Canyon."
The bill attracted unusual bipartisan support after it was introduced on March 9, 2020, by Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who said he expected it to create 100,000 new jobs if passed. It was co-sponsored by 59 additional senators from both sides of the aisle and received endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and six former U.S. Secretaries of the Interior. The bill passed the Senate on June 17 and was approved by the House of Representatives on July 22.
"We applaud the bi-partisan effort in Congress and thank all the Senators and members of the House of Representatives who supported this act. It is one more huge step forward in supporting and restoring our national parks," said Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, after the bill was approved by the House of last month.
“Now that the president has signed the Great American Outdoors Act, it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work implementing the law to conserve our public lands and waters, revitalize our rural and gateway communities and provide a boost to the outdoor recreation industry,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “We cannot thank all the outdoor businesses and associations, elected republicans and democrats, and countless individuals enough for their efforts to achieve this once-in-a-lifetime investment. Now let’s get to work!”
Read the full text of the bill here.