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S.3422: The Great American Outdoors Act
by Mark Dedrick

 

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We’ve had to adapt on the fly to this new reality but we have continued to monitor issues for NFH and to promote NFH’s agenda in D.C. Attending hearings and mark-ups, and meeting with members of Congress and staff have been replaced by more conference calls than ever before. I had never heard of Zoom before March, but I am now using the videoconference service daily to stay in contact with decision-makers. 


Most of the legislative focus since March has been on various COVID-19 relief packages, trying to provide relief for the unemployed, businesses decimated by the slowdown in the economy, and state and local governments that saw the need for services increase while their revenues plummeted. More recently, however, Congress has started moving towards regular order and has begun looking at action on some of their priorities before the arrival of COVID-19. Among these priorities are several pieces of public lands and recreation legislation, including the Great American Outdoors Act. 


The Great American Outdoors Act, S. 3422, introduced by Senator Corey Gardner (R-CO) in March of this year, combines two other significant conservation bills into a single package. The legislation seeks to address the maintenance backlog on National Forests, National Parks, and other public lands, while also fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). To address needed repairs on our public lands, the bill would provide $9.5 billion to address deferred maintenance projects for five agencies, including National Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Under the legislation, at least 65% of the funding must be used for non-transportation projects and none of it can be used for land acquisition. 


The bill has strong bipartisan support, including an encouraging tweet from President Trump. It also has a diverse set of outside supporters, including outdoor recreation groups, environmental organizations, and state and local agencies. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he intends to have the Senate take up the Great American Outdoors Act in June. While this specific legislation has not yet been introduced in the House, there is broad bipartisan support on that side of the Capitol for the goals of this bill. 


Your Summit team will continue to advocate for National Forest Homeowners’ interests in D.C.