A hard-fought victory for conservation, recreation across U.S.
The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) passed the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was signed by Pres. Donald Trump Aug. 4 and will now provide full and permanent funding of $900 million every year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LAWCON).
The act also provides $9.5 billion for five years for federal land management agencies for use on delayed maintenance on facilities, including the nation’s jewels – national parks.
This fund was created by Congress in 1964 to protect natural areas, clean water, and provide recreational opportunities for Americans.
National parks, national wildlife refuges and national forests have all benefitted from this fund, as have recreational and natural areas in Wisconsin and all 49 other states.
Funding comes from oil and natural gas royalty fees paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the off-shore continental shelf.
Besides protecting national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, the fund provides matching grants to state and local park recreational areas.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the act will allow USFWS to acquire lands that strategically increase the effectiveness of refuges in conserving a multitude of species of fish, wildlife, migratory birds and plants.
Land acquisition will also provide more public access.
The amount of money that Wisconsin will receive is unknown, but it is expected to be millions of dollars.
Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said the act “is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Support for the act was mostly bipartisan; however, Wisconsin Congressional representatives voting against the bill were Republican representatives Bryan Steil, Glenn Grothman and Tom Tiffany, and Sen. Ron Johnson.
Passing of the GAOA represents a victory for natural resources and U.S. citizens.