Trump Signs into Law the Great American Outdoors Act
President Donald Trump signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act on Tuesday, August 4, setting the stage for nearly $3 billion annually in federal funding that would go toward restoring national parks, conserving land to mitigate climate change, and putting parks and playgrounds in urban areas.
“There hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect,” Trump said, referring to 26th president. Roosevelt was responsible for creating national parks, forests, and monuments to preserve the country’s natural resources.
The act, the most significant federal conservation in a half century, was approved by the House in July and the Senate in June.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) would receive $900 million a year, and be fully funded for the first time since it was enacted in the 1960s. In budget year 2020, only $495 million was appropriated to the LWCF, the highest amount in 15 years, the organization said.
The fund uses a portion of federal revenues from oil and gas development to protect public lands, and to expand recreation in local communities.
The bill also establishes a National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund that would cover deferred maintenance and related projects at national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal lands.
The National Park Service estimated that as of September 30, 2018, deferred maintenance totaled $11.92 billion.
Of that amount, $6.15 billion is for paved roads and structures.
Deferred maintenance for all other facilities totals $5.77 billion, including buildings, housing, campgrounds, and trails.
The bill, however, has its opponents.
Mark Roeber, a rancher from Delta County, Colorado, and secretary of the Public Lands Council, calls the measure noble, but misguided.
“I just do not believe purchasing tracts of land without the means to care for it achieves desired conservation outcomes. I welcome a conversation about how to best conserve and enhance the natural resources we have, but throwing good money after bad is not the solution,” Roeber wrote on the Public Lands Council website.
The PEW Charitable Trusts listed ways that outdoor recreation contributes to the US economy:
Outdoor recreation industry: Hiking, boating, camping equipment, outfitter, motorcyclist, and sportsmen sectors contribute $778 billion in national economic output—or 2.2% of U.S. gross domestic product—each year and generate 5.2 million American jobs.
Park tourism: Generates $21 billion in direct spending on lodging, restaurants, gas, and similar costs, resulting in more than $40 billion in total economic output. This supports over 340,000 jobs each year. A recent Park Service analysis projects that the bill will support an additional 100,000 jobs.
Hunting and fishing industries: Supported by 49 million sportsmen and sportswomen; these businesses employ 1.3 million Americans and contribute $200 billion to the national economy each year.
Job creation: A Boston University study says that every $1 million invested in the LWCF produces 17 to 31 jobs.
Featured photo courtesy of Emily and Parkes.
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