The Great American Outdoors Act
By: Leah Brodsky, Social Media Editor
History has been made! The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was approved by the United States Senate on June 17, 2020 by an overwhelming majority vote, 73-25. This victory for public lands was followed by a similarly decisive approval vote in the House on July 22. Then, most recently, on August 4, 2020, a monumental moment occurred when the president signed the act into a law. The act has two major components: permanent annual funding of $900 million of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to assist federal, state, and local agencies in the acquisition of land for preservation and recreation; and the commitment of $9.5 billion over the next five years for maintenance and repair of infrastructure in our national parks.
The LWCF has helped preserve land and enhance recreation opportunities throughout the nation including over 80 projects in western Massachusetts and myriad projects through out New England. While the LWCF was first authorized more than 50 years ago Congress has often appropriated far less than the $900 million a year the fund was authorized for. Agencies can now pursue acquisition projects with the knowledge that a secure source of funds is available.
The $9.5 billion dollars will address a backlog of maintenance and repair projects that has been developing over decades. It will ensure that Americans will have continuing access to our nation's public lands and be able to enjoy them safely.
From the AMC point of view, the most important part of the GAOA is the securing of permanent funding for the LWCF at the $900 million a year level.
As an example of what the funds will allow: the Norwottuck Rail Trail, which runs through Northampton, Hadley, Amherst, and Belchertown, is now eligible for funding. The trail requites money for maintenance and cleaning the path. This act will ensure money to conserve the trail.
This act will help “revitalize and restore” public lands and national parks, said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. This is truly a monumental event in U.S. history for the American outdoors so they may flourish, be maintained, and be preserved for future generations.
Thanks to all of you who contacted legislators in support of the GAOA.