Congress, President Should Build on Historic, Bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act

Landmark Legislation Protects Public Lands and Expands Recreation Opportunities for Decades to Come

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Great American Outdoors Act, which was officially signed into law at a White House ceremony, will usher in a new era of public lands protections and expanded outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation. The law, which was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress earlier this summer, will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and will provide up to $1.9 billion a year to address deferred maintenance issues at our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

“The Great American Outdoors Act is a truly historic, bipartisan conservation accomplishment that will protect wildlife habitat, expand recreational opportunities, restore public lands and waters, and create good jobs,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Time and again, our leaders have shown that conservation can not only bridge the partisan divide, but also put Americans back to work and safeguard wildlife and our way of life for future generations. Congress should build on this bipartisan achievement and jump-start our economic recovery by passing additional job creating measures such as a 21st Century Conservation Corps and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is often called America’s most effective land conservation program, has been a top priority of the National Wildlife Federation. Fifty-six years ago, the National Wildlife Federation worked closely with Interior Secretary Stewart Udall and leaders in Congress to secure the initial passage of the program, and then worked to increase funding and programmatic impact in 1968, 1970 and 1977.  For the past six years, the National Wildlife Federation helped lead the charge to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bipartisan triumph of the Great America’s Outdoors Act is very much the result of the hard work of our members, affiliates, and partners, who spoke with their elected officials, wrote letters, and kept up a steady stream of advocacy for this important program. 

“Over the past five decades, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a catalyst to protect fish and wildlife, create parks and waterfront access, and expand recreation and tourism. It has also conserved land along our rivers to protect clean drinking water for our residents and millions of people downstream,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that the full potential of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be realized for generations to come.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped support such iconic places as Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington state. It has also been a critical tool for connecting and restoring wildlife habitat, which can help reverse the wildlife crisis that our country faces,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. “This legislation is the biggest conservation victory in a generation, and it will ensure that our wildlife populations and cherished landscapes and waterways will survive and thrive well into the future.”

“Our national parks have been called “America’s best idea” and the number of visitors who enjoy them has grown exponentially. But for too long, we haven’t adequately maintained the trails, roads, and visitor facilities in those areas. The Great American Outdoors Act will begin to address those issues so that our parks, forests, and wildlife refuges will be restored for future generations to enjoy,” said Michael Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “In addition, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, will ensure that local parks, ballfields, biking trails, fishing access points, and other outdoor recreation areas in Tennessee will meet the growing demand of people seeking to get outside to connect with nature.”

“Montana Wildlife Federation salutes the generations of American hunters and anglers who’ve advocated for full, permanent Land and Water Conservation funding over the past 60 years.  The coronavirus pandemic has only increased the value of wild, public and accessible habitat as people spend more time outdoors, and the biodiversity crisis demands ever greater collaboration and investments for our fish and wildlife,” said Frank Szollosi, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “We appreciate President Trump’s signature on this historic legislation, and the bipartisan leadership of Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, and that of our At-large Congressman, Greg Gianforte. This is such a refreshing win for conservation during otherwise challenging times.”   

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