The Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) was introduced this week by Senators Manchin (D-WV), Portman (R-OH), Warner (D-VA), Gardner (R-CO), Daines (R-MT), Heinrich (D-NM) and 50 other bipartisan cosponsors. The bill integrates the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act (S. 1081 by Senators Manchin and Gardner) and the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 500 by Senators Portman and Warner), but with critical expansion to also address crumbling infrastructure on National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and lands under the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education schools.
The legislation would provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), dedicating $900 million annually to a program that has helped conserve some of the most important lands in our nation for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. More than a year ago, the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society (RGS|AWS) celebrated Senate and House approval of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S. 47), which was then signed into law to include permanent reauthorization of LWCF. LWCF authorization had expired despite a 50-year track record of successfully conserving habitat and expanding recreational access. Permanent authorization was a big victory. However, even with permanent reauthorization, Congress has previously redirected approximately $22 billion of funds intended for LWCF implementation to instead pay for unrelated budget items. RGS|AWS staff, along with a coalition of our conservation and forest industry partners, has previously worked to increase individual year appropriations for LWCF and secured its future with permanent reauthorization. Now let’s score another win and secure annual, dedicated funding for the program!
With widespread infrastructure problems in the form of crumbling roads, trails, blinds, piers, campsites, parking lots, and boat ramps across public lands where millions of Americans hunt, fish, hike, and camp, expansion of S. 500 to address a broader public land base is also a significant accomplishment. The Restore Our Parks Act originally addressed only National Parks Service lands, but input from the hunting community has seen our needs considered in the Great American Outdoors Act. Your voices can help ensure Congress continues to see the nearly $10 billion the Great American Outdoors Act would dedicate to infrastructure maintenance on public lands over the next five years as an investment in your future ability to recreate and support conservation and local communities through your visits to these lands.
What You Can Do Find your Senators here, and track the list of S. 3422 cosponsors here. If your Senators are supportive, thank them for committing to this bipartisan effort. If they’ve not yet sponsored the bill, ask them to do so. You can reference our letter of support here. Add your own personal stories of how you’ve been affected by failing infrastructure, and simply how much it means to you that Congress supports conservation, recreation, and continued access to these priceless public lands. Placing a call to your local office can be more effective than writing an email, but any effort may help. Be firm but polite, thank them for their time, and assure them that these are top priorities that you will continue to track and follow up on accordingly