On Wednesday, July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 310-107 to approve the Great American Outdoors Act, which would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make critical investments in our national park system and other public lands. The bill, which passed the U.S. Senate last month, now goes to the president for his promised signature.
“During this tumultuous time, many of us have turned to outdoor spaces and local parks for our physical and mental wellbeing. I am grateful that the U.S. House of Representatives expressed their thanks by supporting this historic investment in the future of our outdoor spaces,” said Deb Markowitz, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
Fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will bring critical funding for conservation and recreation across the Commonwealth. Important lands and waters, like Barrett’s Farm at Minute Man National Historical Park, climate resilient wildlife habitat at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, the forests around the Quabbin Reservoir that filter water for 2.5 million people, and countless local parks and playgrounds, have already been funded through LWCF.
“These places also form the foundation of our strong outdoor recreation economy. Fully funding this program is a game-changer for nature and for those of us who love and depend on it,” says Markowitz.
The Great American Outdoors Act combines two conservation proposals that each have strong, bipartisan support. The first would provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for LWCF, an amount derived from offshore oil and gas revenues—not tax dollars. A recent economic analysis shows that every $1 million invested in LWCF could support up to 30 jobs. Additionally, research on the impact of the LWCF shows that $1 spent generates $4 in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone.
The second part of the bill would invest $1.9 billion annually for the next five years toward maintenance in national parks, other public lands and at the Bureau of Indian Education. In Massachusetts, this backlog has been estimated at over $244 million at National Park Service (NPS) sites, alone. For example, Minute Man National Historical Park sees a million annual visitors and generates $87 million in economic output; however, it has over $12 million in deferred maintenance needs related to buildings, trails, wastewater systems and roads. Across the country, maintenance investments at NPS sites could generate nearly 110,000 additional infrastructure-related jobs.