WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and provide $9.5 billion over five years to fix maintenance problems that are plaguing America’s public lands. The final vote on the bill was introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), prevailing in the Senate 73-25.
Alongside other conservation organizations, as well as hunting and fishing groups, outdoor recreation businesses and more, Environment America has prioritized the LWCF, America’s best conservation and recreation program. Utilizing billboards in several states; lawn signs and banners; a steady series of op-eds; and a continual presence on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts, we have pushed legislators to make the LWCF a more effective tool for protecting the beautiful public lands that enrich so many lives.
In response to the Senate’s vote, Environment America’s acting President Wendy Wendlandt released the following statement:
“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the Senate is a huge achievement, bringing us closer to finally fully funding America’s best conservation and recreation program. This bill reflects what we all know -- protecting and enhancing our public lands is an essential part of the American ethos. By locking in $900 million a year for outdoor projects, plus providing a short-term infusion of money to address maintenance issues, the Senate is reaffirming that commitment to the natural world.
“We love our public lands, whether it’s local parks and hiking trails or national parks or forests, and this bill puts appropriate funding behind where our hearts lay.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund legislation has supported projects in all 50 states and every county in the United States. But over the years, $22 billion has been diverted out of the fund and away from conservation. The Great American Outdoor Act puts a lock and key on money that truly is intended for conservation projects.
“We now urge members of the House to take up and approve this conservation measure -- without adding amendments that could jeopardize the bipartisan balance that has been struck -- as soon as possible.”
Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.