U.S. House Passes Landmark Bill to Fund Land & Water Conservation, National Parks

On July 22, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), one of NYLCV’s top policy priorities, with overwhelming bipartisan support. The U.S. Senate passed a same-as bill in June so the only step left is for the President to sign this bill into law.

The GAOA combines two major conservation bills: S.500 (the Restore Our Parks Act), which seeks to address the maintenance backlog on public lands, and S.1081, which permanently allocates $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Altogether, the GAOA is intended to provide $9.5 billion for open space and parks, including $1.9 billion for the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund for FY 2021–2025.

According to the LWCF Coalition, New York has received $348.4 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River and the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, grants under the LWCF have secured sustainable forestry operations in an effort to conserve wildlife habitats and improve air and water quality. LWCF state assistance grants have further supported hundreds of projects across New York’s state and local parks, from the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn to the Confluence Park and Chenango River Promenade in Binghamton.

Under the bill, the National Parks Service would receive the majority of funds (70%) while the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service would each receive 10%. The Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education are set to each collect 5%. The remainder of the funding will be put towards reducing the maintenance backlog, as well as incorporating other land agencies to carry out the goals of this legislation.

Now more than ever, we see the importance of having access to outdoor recreation, including parks, green spaces, and trails. Within the GAOA Bill, dedicated funding towards the LWCF is set to address preservation needs in national parks, protect natural spaces, expand outdoor activity, as well as create jobs nationwide. Outdoor recreation in the United States contributes to over $8 billion in annual economic output, supporting well over 7.6 million jobs. A recent National Park Service study found that the national parks restoration portion of this bill will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years.

The Great American Outdoors Act establishes a critical balance of expanding access to outdoor recreational opportunities for all communities while conserving public lands and waters, which is why NYLCV is proud to be part of a national coalition that is working to get the legislation enacted.

All but one member (Rep. Jacobs) of the New York Congressional Delegation voted Yes on the House bill which was co-sponsored by Representatives Brindisi, Clarke, Delgado, Engel, Espaillat, Higgins, Jeffries, Katko, King, (Carolyn) Maloney, (Sean Patrick) Maloney, Meeks, Meng, Morelle, Nadler, Ocasio-Cortez, Reed, Rice, Rose, Serrano, Stefanik, Suozzi, Tonko, Velázquez, and Zeldin. Show your appreciation by sending a Thank You message to your representative for passing this major legislation. If you happen to be represented by Rep. Jacobs in the 27th Congressional District, please send him a No Thank You message.