Congress Passes the Great American Outdoors Act

Today, the United States House of Representatives voted in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act by an overwhelming majority (310–107). It is now on its way to be signed by the President, and within the next 10 days will become the most significant piece of conservation legislation in a generation.

The Act provides full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), providing $900 million every year for conservation purposes. LWCF is funded by a percentage of offshore gas and oil revenues, and is intended to preserve lands and waters most important to Americans and make those lands accessible to all. Over the last 50 years, thousands of trail projects have been funded by LWCF, including many of the parks and trails where we recreate.

The legislation also supports continued funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) Program. LWCF and ORLP have made progress in expanding access to outdoor spaces for communities in urban areas. Continued support of the ORLP program is needed to ensure that our nation’s natural spaces are available and accessible to urban communities, whose access to and inclusion in outdoor recreation have been disproportionately negatively impacted by geography, socio-economic status, and other factors. Permanent and dedicated LWCF funding is a must to ensure that our nation’s trails, public lands, parks, and open spaces remain protected and accessible for all communities for generations to come.

The Act also invests $9.5 billion to address the maintenance backlog that has led to closed trails, out-of-service restrooms, campgrounds in poor conditions, and impassable roads. Many Americans will be put to work improving these important recreational resources – the likes of which we haven’t seen since the introduction of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. This is not paid for by taxpayers, but through energy development revenues derived from projects on federal land.

“Witnessing the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is one of the proudest accomplishments of my career,” said Matthew Nelson, executive director of the Arizona Trail Association. “This visionary legislation will increase Americans’ access to their public lands, preserve the spaces that are most important, and provide funding to address the maintenance backlog on trails and within parks nationwide. Since the COVID-19 outbreak we have seen that more Americans are visiting outdoor spaces than ever before. The Great American Outdoors Act comes at a time when we need it most, and is something every American can be proud of. On behalf of all the hikers, runners, backpackers, mountain bikers and equestrians who have a connection to the Arizona National Scenic Trail, we offer gratitude to every member of Congress who voted in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act.”

In Arizona, the Great American Outdoors Act was supported by Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally; and Representatives Ruben Gallego, Raúl Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Tom O’Halleran, David Schweikert, and Greg Stanton. Please reach out to your Representatives and let them know how much you appreciate their support.

“At a time when our country feels very divided, our public lands are bringing us together,” said Nelson. “The Great American Outdoors Act is testament to the importance of Nature, our outdoor recreation economy, and how wild landscapes define what it means to be American.”