The Great American Outdoors Act finally passed Congress last week. It will provide long-term funding for nationwide land and water conservation.
The act permanently commits $900 million annually from federal oil and gas leasing fees to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for land acquisition for national, state, and local parks and forests. It also provides an additional $9.5 billion over the next five years for priority repairs to national parks and forests.
Tom Cors, director of government relations for lands at The Nature Conservancy and a spokesperson for the LWCF Coalition, called the vote a “historic victory” (PDF) which will provide guaranteed LWCF funding. “Despite years of uneven funding, LWCF has conserved iconic landscapes in every state; protected our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness, monuments and battlefields; and supported community investments in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities.”
Conservation advocacy groups across the nation celebrated the Outdoors Act’s win but said much more work needs to be done. “The Great American Outdoors Act is a huge step forward to ensuring that every community has access to nature. This victory is a testament to the power of grassroots activists and the enduring popularity of conservation,” said League of Conservation Voters (LCV) President Gene Karpinski. “But as a recent report from the Center for American Progress and Hispanic Access Foundation shows, there is more work to be done to ensure every community – especially low income and communities of color – has access to public lands (PDF), local parks and other outdoor opportunities.”
NCLCV and other member groups of the Conservation Voters Movement participated in advocacy to support permanent funding for the LWCF.