For many of us, 2020 has not been the year that we expected. But the American people (and tourists to the US), still have reason for hope. The Great American Outdoors Act is a broadly bipartisan bill designed to invest in our shared lands and waters is expected to be passed into law.
Legislation that has been hailed by many as a “conservation game changer” has recently passed through the Senate and is on the way to the House of Representatives, which is also expected to pass the bill. President Trump has previously said that he will sign the bill into law.
So as our country deals with the pandemic, subsequent economic crisis and social unrest, there is a glimmer of hope for those of us that get respite from being outdoors. Many people rely on the great outdoors to help keep us safe and healthy. Getting outside offers us some relief from the unease in the world and our own anxiety.
Here’s what’s included in this bill.
The bill ensures full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its creation in 1964, the LWCF has funded everything from municipal ballparks, river access sites, and local historic monuments. This is significant because although the LWCF has been around for over 55 years, much of the $900 million put into the LWCF fund each year is typically siphoned from the fund for other non-conservation projects. In the last fiscal year, only $495 million was appropriated to LWCF, the highest amount in 15 years, but 45% less than the $900 million put in the fund that year. The LWCF has had projects in nearly every state and county in the US since its inception. This includes nearly 1000 trail projects nationwide. This legislation guarantees that funding is available for future generations to continue to preserve our public places, such as National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management sites (BLM), park visitor centers, campgrounds, roads, and other infrastructure.
This bill will also permanently fund the LWCF so it can address the nearly $22 billion backlog of maintenance projects across our public lands. If you have noticed closed trails, out of service restrooms, or campgrounds in poor conditions over your years of camping, this bill will help with the repairs.
As quoted from Mike Simpson, Republican member of Congress representing Idaho’s 2nd District, “Big picture, passage of the Great American Outdoors Act would fund countless shovel-ready projects all over the United States, such as repairing roads, trails, bridges and water structures, that would sustain important habitat, increase public access opportunities and get people back to work. This work would bolster America’s robust $778 billion outdoor recreation economy, the source of jobs and a contributor to healthy communities throughout the nation.”
Senator Joe Manchin (Democrat, West Virginia) stated, “This is a shining example of Democrats and Republicans coming together to put politics aside to do what is best for conserving the natural resources of this great nation. I believe this will be one of the most significant conservation bills ever enacted into law.”
The bill will provide $9.5 billion dollars over 5 years to repair roads, restrooms, trails, and campgrounds at our National Parks. It’s important to note that the money will not come from tax dollars, but instead will come from offshore oil and gas revenues.
So what does this mean for us as teardrop, square drop and other tiny campers? It means that there would be a permanent shift of money to help pay for city parks, swimming pools, sports fields, fishing piers, trails and campgrounds in all 50 states, including in urban areas with limited park resources. If you own a tiny camper, you enjoy being outdoors! The land that you enjoy exploring will now receive funding to help maintain, protect, and preserve for our future generations to enjoy.