Theodore Roosevelt was probably smiling yesterday when President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act, one of the most important pieces of conservation legislation of the last decade. Despite all the partisan wrangling we hear about, Congress and the president came together to provide $2.4 billion per year for needed repairs and maintenance of the national parks and forests and other public lands. Even better, it accomplishes this without any new taxpayer dollars.
First, the bill guarantees money for park infrastructure from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is funded by a portion of the royalties from federal offshore oil & gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. Congress shamefully raided the LWCF over the past 52 years to fund other projects in the hope the American people wouldn’t notice the decline in the state of the parks. Now the $900 million destined for the fund will be protected and dedicated to preserve access and improve our parks and public lands. The bill then supplements this with up to another $1.3 billion per year funded from other federal offshore energy resources. The attached summary by Field and Stream Magazine details the changes and why they are so important.
I am lucky to live only one hour from beautiful Yellowstone National Park and frequently visit to fish and hike. It has been heartening to see so many American families using their vacations to enjoy its sights and connect with the land and resources that Theodore Roosevelt helped preserve for them. Unfortunately, you can also see the results of the past failure to maintain the campsites, trails and other visitor facilities. These new funds will help keep the parks and our other public lands accessible, enjoyable and affordable – something we all can celebrate!