Senate Passes the Great American Outdoors Act

June 17, 2020 | by National Deer Alliance

On June 17, the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly (73-25) to pass the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422). The National Deer Alliance (NDA) and its members whole-heartedly supported the legislation that fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and tackles the huge maintenance backlog currently faced on our public lands. Introduced in March by multiple Senators from both sides of the aisle, the Great American Outdoors Act will provide full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and address the $19 billion maintenance backlog on our public lands.

The LWCF, created in 1965, provides funding for land and water conservation, outdoor recreation and historic preservation projects. The Fund is not tax-funded; rather, it's funded by royalties collected from offshore oil and gas operations. The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that the LWCF will be fully funded at $900 million annually for just the third time in the Fund's half-century history. For reference, the Fund is slated to receive $495 million this year - the highest allocation in the last 17 years.

Additionally, Great American Outdoors Act will dedicate $9.5 billion to restore public land infrastructure over a period of five years, with the National Park Service (NPS) receiving 70% of these funds. Other federal agencies, such as the US Forest Service (USFS), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will receive most of the remainder.

The National Deer Alliance (NDA) outlines wild deer conservation, sportsmen access and state and federal land management as top priority areas. "The Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is an unparalleled conservation achievement in most of our lifetimes," said Torin Miller, NDA's policy and outreach coordinator. “While we’re celebrating the bill’s passage and the hard work of our dedicated members, we are looking forward to pushing this unprecedented legislation through the House, and ultimately, to the President’s desk.”

Identical legislation was already introduced in the House of Representatives, and President Donald Trump has vowed to support bipartisan legislation to fully fund the LWCF. NDA will continue to eagerly monitor the Great American Outdoors Act; be on the lookout for more Action Alerts as progress is made in the House. Finally, don’t forget to thank the Senators who voted in favor of the bill!