U.S. Senate Passes Great American Outdoors Act

The Great American Outdoors Act has passed the Senate by a vote of 73-25. The legislation would require full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address much of the backlog of deferred maintenance across several federal agencies.

Deemed the “biggest federal lands bill in 50 years,” the Great American Outdoors Act would for the first time fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) with $900 million annually in fossil fuel revenue. Additionally, the bill would provide more than $9 billion over five years for agencies such as the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management to address the $20 billion maintenance backlog on federal public lands. The LWCF utilizes federal money for national park maintenance, natural resource protection, and matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. Since 1964 the LWCF has provided more than $231 in federal funds for projects in Maryland.

Advocates have seen mixed signals on the bill, with leaders initially signalling support and then setting it aside upon the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate then took up issue again last week, voting for cloture, and Wednesday voting for passage of the bill. Many believe that the legislation could be impactful in the 2020 U.S. Senate race with the lead  bill sponsor, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardener (R) likely to face a tough opponent in the general election. Former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper and former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff are facing off in the June 30th Democratic primary and the winner will likely mount a formidable campaign against the Gardener in November. Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R), is also in a competitive race, facing off against Democratic Gov. and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock.

The bill now heads to the Democratic controlled House. President Trump has previously signaled approval of the bill and would likely sign it in to law if it reaches his desk.

Useful Links:

Previous Coverage on Conduit Street: Land and Water Conservation Fund Fights for Federal Stimulus Money

Coverage in EcoWatch

Sen. Gardner Press Release