In a move that will reverberate for generations to come, on July 22 the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed The Great American Outdoors Act with a bipartisan vote of 304 to 105. This historic legislation provides the necessary funding for the nearly $22 billion backlog in National Parks maintenance, while permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). For several years, Public Land Solutions and our partners have advocated for legislation to support full and permanent funding for LWCF, as it provides the outdoor recreation economy widespread financial support for urban and rural parks and public lands projects. In addition to jobs created by improving outdoor spaces, small outdoor recreation businesses grow and thrive in areas benefiting from LWCF funding. For so many, this may be the economic recovery driver that will offer struggling communities hope and new jobs.
The Great American Outdoors Act initially passed the Senate 73-25 with bipartisan support, and President Trump has pledged to sign the bill into law. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is an investment in US cities, towns, and public lands. An investment that will offer years of returns to local communities. While the outdoor recreation economy is valued at over $887 billion and creates millions of jobs, those numbers have the potential to grow as interest in and opportunities for outdoor experiences grow. US citizens want to increase access to public lands and improve existing infrastructure in National Parks. Quality of life affects the ability of businesses to recruit and retain employees, and it is this public support that pushed so many senators and representatives to finally vote in favor of this bill.
There are many organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly to keep this legislation alive, and it is those who persevered in the face of adversity who need to be recognized. This has been an incredible battle. But ultimately, all Americans have won. Whether it be a city park a few blocks down the street receiving a grant to make a playground safe for children or a National Park building a picnic area for families to enjoy time outside together, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is now able to make good on the promise made so many years ago to improve the lives of Americans and ensure access to our shared public lands for generations.