A landmark conservation and outdoor recreation bill is making its way through Congress in the other Washington and in a rare event in modern times, it’s something both sides of the aisle can and should be celebrating.
The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) will FULLY and PERMANENTLY fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation’s premier land conservation program, at $900 million per year—double the current level. This funding is frequently used to leverage WWRP funding here in Washington, including Kiwanis Methow Park in Wenatchee, which received $500,000 in WWRP funding and $500,000 in LWCF funding. This source of funding—much like the WWRP—is critical to ensuring communities across the state are able to develop outstanding local outdoor recreation facilities to serve their constituents, especially those who have traditionally enjoyed less access to the outdoors.
LWCF also funds the purchase of inholdings at our National Parks. You might not realize it, but many large tracts of public land, like our national parks, have small bits of privately owned land within them. Sometimes these land owners decide they want to sell their land—the federal government can use funding from LWCF to purchase these properties and ensure they don’t become private resorts or go towards other incompatible uses. You can find out more about how LWCF has benefited Washington here.
And even better, the GAOA also includes the Repair Our Parks Act, which provides up to $9.6 billion for deferred maintenance in our national parks and federal lands. So not only are we providing enough funding to create more and better outdoor recreation opportunities all across the country, but we’re investing more in taking care of them as well.
Best of all, though, is that this money is not coming out of your pocket! The costs for the GAOA come entirely from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayer dollars. And the investment of these funds all across the country (and WA has traditionally benefited quite a lot from LWCF, which we expect to continue) will create local jobs, improved mental and physical health, and long-term economic growth for communities.
Doesn’t this all sound GREAT? Well, it is. And that’s why it passed the Senate with a resounding 73-25 bipartisan vote. Now it’s up to the House to consider it—and it’s by no means a done deal. We still need YOUR help to ensure all of our Washington delegation votes in favor, proving just how much ALL Washingtonians love our lands. From a local park in Wenatchee to conservation of wildlife habitat, to improving facilities at our scenic National Parks, and more all across the country, this bill truly serves all Americans.
So please call your Representative today and encourage them to vote in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act. And while you’re at it, please give Senators Cantwell and Murray a call and thank them for their outstanding leadership and support on this as well!