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Great American Outdoors Act Expected to Pass House

Wednesday, July 22, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sharon Leach
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Bipartisan Public Lands Legislation

The House is expected to pass bipartisan conservation legislation that many in Congress and the Trump administration hope will boost an ailing economy. This includes shovel-ready outdoor and infrastructure projects it will fund.

The Great American Outdoors Act (S.3422) is includes mandatory funding at $900 million a year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, no longer will this fund be subject to the annual appropriations process. LWCF pays for federal land acquisition as well as parks, wildlife refuges, ball fields and other conservation projects in states and local communities across the country, both rural and urban.

The legislation also creates a new five-year trust fund of up to $9.5 billion from unallocated onshore and offshore energy revenues to address a $20 billion deferred maintenance backlog in America’s national parks and public lands.

“Combined, these two major programs amount to one of the biggest wins in conservation in decades,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said Wednesday during floor debate.

President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill, which the Senate passed in June.

Previous Trump administration budget proposals have recommended gutting LWCF, but two of the program’s biggest Republican advocates in the Senate—Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Steve Daines (Mont.)—face tough re-election campaigns this year.

Many outside groups, from sportsmen to small businesses to environmental organizations, strongly support the bill.

“The Great American Outdoors Act is a long overdue investment and will be a game changer for the National Park Service,” said Marcia Argust, project director for Restore America’s Parks at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Instead of having to resort to Band-Aid fixes, the agency can finally undertake critical repair projects that will provide for lasting access, historic preservation, and job creation.”

Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the lead sponsors of the House bill, said that the legislation would create approximately 100,000 jobs at a time when the country desperately needs them.

But Utah Republican Rob Bishop has objected to making LWCF funding mandatory, especially at a time when oil and gas revenues are falling sharply because of the pandemic, according to the Congressional Research Service.

LWCF relies on offshore energy revenue. That revenue also funds the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), including the revenue-sharing arrangement between the federal government and the Gulf Coast states that produce most of that energy.

This bill is expected to pass the house later on Wednesday.