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  • Writer's pictureRegina Leonard

Great News for Our National Parks

On August 9, 2020 the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), a multi-billion dollar investment in our national parks, became law. Recently called "the biggest land conservation in a generation," the GAOA is an investment in the restoration and maintenance of our national parks as well as state and local recreation and conservation efforts. According to Professor Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School, the legislation has two primary impacts: 1) it establishes the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, a $9 billion infusion over the next five years to address deferred maintenance; and 2) it ensures an annual investment of $900 million toward the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

While visits to our national parks have increased by 50% over the last four decades, our investment in them has not kept pace. As a result, our national park system today has deferred maintenance needs to the tune of $12 billion. The National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund will help address the maintenance backlog for roads, utilities, campgrounds, monuments, trails, fire safety, and visitor infrastructure. This investment will also create an estimated 108,000 new jobs according to Professor Bilmes.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is also the beneficiary of the GAOA, funds four main Federal land programs (National Parks, National Forests, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Bureau of Land Management) and provides grants to state and local governments for recreation and conservation-focused projects. The LWCF uses proceeds from the royalty payments from offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters and was established in 1964. Although the LWCF has an authorization level of $900 million, Congress has typically funded only half the amount. The GAOA ensures that the LWCF will be fully funded annually, which is great news for communities seeking financial assistance for conservation and recreation projects.

For more information on the GAOA and insight from Professor Bilmes, check out this article in the Harvard Gazette, which you can link to here:

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