Great American Outdoors Act Passes U.S. Senate
June 17, 2020
Senate Passes Great American Outdoors Act, Bill Moves to House of Representatives for Consideration
HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (June 17, 2020) – With a vote of 73-25 in favor, the Great American Outdoors Act was passed today by the U.S. Senate, bringing it one step closer to becoming one of the most sweeping conservation bills in decades. It now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The Act provides full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and creates a Restoration Fund to address the deferred maintenance needs in national parks, forests, and other public lands. Should the bill be signed into law, billions of dollars will be made available for a variety of public lands projects ranging from landscape preservation to infrastructure improvements. The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) itself has an estimated $20-$60 million worth of deferred maintenance needs. Broad swaths of A.T. lands — from Blood Mountain, Georgia to portions of Maine’s 100-mile Wilderness — have been protected using LWCF funds.
The Great American Outdoors Act is the top legislative priority for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) in the 116th Congress, as it will directly address millions of dollars needed to properly protect and maintain the A.T.
“Public lands like the Appalachian Trail provide millions of visitors each year with much-needed respite and rejuvenation, and it is essential that our public lands are given the funds they need to ensure opportunities for everyone to safely enjoy the benefits nature provides,” said Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy applauds our Senators supporting the Great American Outdoors Act, which will provide millions in much-needed deferred maintenance funding and, at long last, fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We urge Congress to pass this important bill quickly, for the sake of our public lands, the recreation economies that depend on them, and the next generation of adventurers and conservationists.”
Funding LWCF at its fully authorized level — $900 million a year — would double what was available in 2019 for states, municipalities, and the federal government to conserve land for recreation and wildlife habitats. The Restoration Fund would make available $9.5 billion over five years, with $6 billion slated for National Park System units and about $1.4 billion slated for National Forest System units. Across all its public lands, the United States has a deferred maintenance backlog of $20 billion and releasing these funds now will aid in our economic recovery while keeping our special places ready to receive visitors.
For more information about this Act and how it can help preserve the A.T., visit appalachiantrail.org/gaoa.
About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park System, the A.T. ranges from Maine to Georgia and is 2,193 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The mission of the ATC is to protect, manage, and advocate for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. For more information, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.
Lead image courtesy of Brent McGuirt Photography