Today, the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act with a vote of 73 to 25. Thanks to broad bipartisan support, the GAOA is now headed to the Democratically-controlled House where it is expected to pass. The passage of this bill will give us two important conservation wins:
First, it permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for $900 million annually. LWCF is our country’s most important conservation program, supporting local economies, providing infrastructure for public health, tourism, and recreation, and increasing access to the outdoors in all states and territories. It is paid for with non-taxpayer dollars and is overwhelmingly popular. It has maintained broad bipartisan support due to its more than half-century history of successful, locally-driven conservation.
In Washington state alone, the outdoor recreation economy contributes over $26 billion in consumer spending and supports more than 201,000 direct jobs. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a key component of our nation’s robust outdoor recreation economy, which generates over $887 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 7.6 million American jobs. The LWCF has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects in communities across the country.
Second, this bill includes a package that provides $1.9 billion over five years which is $9.5 billion total for deferred maintenance on our nation’s public lands. Most of this will go to The National Park Service and will be used to address deteriorating roads, visitor centers, and facilities. Now more than ever, we need funding for public lands conservation and maintenance. The Great American Outdoors Act will provide the financial support and infrastructure that is desperately needed.