Senate Passes the Great American Outdoors Act

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posted on June 18, 2020
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With a vote of 73-25, the U.S. Senate has passed the historic Great American Outdoors Act, representing a strong commitment to increasing public-land access and advancing conservation. 

The Great American Outdoors Act will provide $9.5 billion over 5 years to address the crumbling infrastructure on America's public lands and waters. While the National Park Service will receive $6.5 billion in funding, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) led a successful effort to secure the inclusion of $3 billion to repair and maintain public land infrastructure overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which provides critically important recreational opportunities for America's sportsmen and women.

"The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation applauds Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Today's vote demonstrates the bipartisan support for advancing conservation and increasing access for hunters and anglers," said CSF president Jeff Crane. "When signed into law, this bill will provide much needed support for public lands and waters and boost the already formidable outdoor economy. CSF extends our sincere thanks to the Senate Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) members that voted to support these priorities."

The inclusion of funding specifically for BLM, USFWS, and USFS lands and waters will ensure that Americans have the ability to access critically important hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities. Over 246 million acres, or 99%, of BLM lands are open to hunting and fishing while the USFS reports that 99% of the 193 million acres it administers are open to hunting and at least 99% of USFS administered rivers, streams, and lakes are open to fishing. Collectively, BLM, USFWS, and USFS annually support more than 25 million hunting days and nearly 45 million fishing days, highlighting the importance of these lands for America's sportsmen and women as well as the outdoor economy. Additionally, funding for maintenance backlog will create over 100,000 employment opportunities.

The Great American Outdoors Act also provides full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually. LWCF is one of the most successful and influential conservation programs in our nation's history. As a testament to the impact of LWCF, the program has completed a conservation, recreation, or access project in every single county in the country. S. 3422 also secures $15 million annually to increase public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation.

"Years of bipartisan work have led to this moment and this historic opportunity for conservation," said CSC Member Sen. Cory Gardner (CO). "Today the Senate passed not only the single greatest conservation achievement in generations, but also a lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. I call on the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay in order to provide jobs to the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and protections for the great American outdoors for future generations of Americans to cherish."

The Great American Outdoors Act heads to the House for further consideration. The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation strongly encourages sportsmen and women to contact their representatives in the House to urge quick passage of this long overdue legislation as-is without any changes by calling 202-224-3121 or by clicking here.

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