The Senate has passed the Great American Outdoors Act in a 73-25 vote on Wednesday. The bipartisan bill would double spending on popular conservation programs. Nearly $2 billion a year would be devoted to improve and maintain national parks.
After its approval in the Senate, the bill will go to the House. If approved in the House, the bill would be the most significant conservation legislation in almost 50 years.
The bill supports outdoor recreation in two ways. Firstly, the National Park Service and other federal land-management agencies would receive $9.5 billion over the next five years. Secondly, the bill would permanently finance the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Many consider the LWCF as the nation’s best funding tool for outdoor recreation.
President Trump called for a conservation-focused bill back in March. “I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks,” the President tweeted. “When I sign it into law, it will be HISTORIC for our beautiful public lands.”
Bipartisan Support for the Bill
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the bill on June 4. Lawmakers expect the House of Representatives to pass the bill in the coming weeks. Thereafter, the bill goes to President Trump’s desk. According to his previous tweets, many expect the President will quickly sign it into law.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addressed the approval of the bill. He spoke about what its passing would mean for national parks. “America’s hundreds of millions of acres of public lands are the result of hundreds of years of exploration and conservation,” McConnell said.
One of the chief sponsors of the bill is Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). He says the bill help restore national parks and create at least 100,000 jobs. “This is an economic and jobs package as much as it is a conservation package,” he said, according to WUSA9.
Because of the bill’s potential impact, Sen. Gardner believes it is critical for the outdoor recreation business. He calls it the “single greatest conservation achievement in generations.” Additionally, Gardner says it will help communities impacted by the coronavirus. He refers to the bill as a “lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities.”
Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington credits a “new coalition” of bipartisan support for passing the bill. She claims people are now “aware of the juggernaut that the outdoors economy has been.”
Furthermore, Cantwell adds that outdoor recreation and tourism support $887 billion a year in consumer spending. Also, she notes that outdoor recreation and tourism create 7.6 million jobs. “America deserves a break right now, and the outdoors is restorative,″ Cantwell said.