Today, the U.S. Senate passed S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) on a vote of 73-25!
The bipartisan bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives and is likely to come up for consideration this summer.
Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch opposed the measure, however, Representative Mike Simpson is an original co-sponsor of the measure in the House, where the bill is expected to be promptly considered.
Passage of the GAOA will fund long-deferred maintenance and upgrades for roads, trails, campgrounds, visitor centers, and other recreational infrastructure in national parks, national forests, Bureau of Land Management and other public lands across our country.
According to recent reports, Idaho’s national forests have a maintenance backlog of $528 million. Two Idaho forests, the Nez Perce-Clearwater and Idaho Panhandle, lead the entire nation in backlogs, ranking first and second with $144 million and $141 million needed for deferred maintenance, respectively. These investments will create thousands of jobs for Idahoans impacted by the pandemic, improve public access, and protect water quality. To boot, it will create career paths for Idahoans who are entering a challenging job market.
The GAOA will also permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which allows for the acquisition and construction of public parks, open space and trails. In Idaho, the fund has brought in nearly $300 million to fund Bruneau Dunes State Park and several Coeur d’Alene town parks. It’s helped protect lands in the Sawtooths and Craters of the Moon National Monument through land acquisitions and conservation easements. In 2018, the LWCF contributed to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts through the purchase of a Sawtooth Valley ranch with a water right that ensures reliable in-stream flows for salmon, steelhead and bull trout.
The GAOA would provide $9.5 billion a year over 5 years to address deferred maintenance and would permanently allocate $900 million a year for the LWCF. Funding sources for both would come from energy-development revenues, not from taxpayers.
With House passage expected this summer, and a commitment from President Trump to sign the bill, we’ll be able to put Idahoans to work restoring trails, campgrounds, wildlife habitat, and other resources on our public lands.