On Wednesday, the Senate passed the Great American Outdoor Act, sending the bill to the House of Representatives. The bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands. The bill provides $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $9.5 billion over the next five years in national park and other public land maintenance.
The legislation was praised by Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
“This watershed conservation legislation will protect Oregon’s treasured places for generations to come. And it couldn’t come at a better time with the economic impact of the COVID-19 emergency hitting our rural communities like a wrecking ball,” Wyden said. “The LWCF not only helps to get people outdoors and expand access to public lands, it has a proven track record of boosting the economies of the communities near those lands. It’s the ultimate game plan for economic success in rural Oregon when you’re talking about jobs and recreation around our natural wonders.”
“Just as Oregon’s shores, forests and deserts have long been woven into the spirit of our state and the vitality of our economy, America’s incredible public lands have made invaluable contributions to every region of our country,” said Merkley. “It’s our responsibility to be good stewards of those treasures, so that they can be enjoyed by future generations of hikers, hunters, fishermen, and other outdoor recreationists. I’m pleased that the Senate took an important step toward protecting Oregon’s and America’s great outdoor spaces by passing this legislation.”
However, livestock and public lands groups argue the bill is a “disappointment to those who value conservation and active management of our natural resources.”
Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover said by making funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund mandatory, “proponents of this bill sentenced existing and future lands and waters to the same fate facing current federal assets – billions of dollars in deferred maintenances.”
The Public Lands Council actively represents cattle and sheep producers who hold public lands grazing permits. President Donald Trump indicated he would sign the bill, if passed by both the House and Senate.
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