Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) on a vote of 310-107!
The measure will guarantee permanent annual funding of $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and will also provide $9.5 billion for public lands infrastructure, over 5 years.
The President is expected to sign the bill in coming days.
As an original co-sponsor of the bill, Representative Mike Simpson spoke in favor of the bill [add quote from Mike’s floor statements] and has said, “this legislation ensures generations to come will be able enjoy these amazing places as we do today.”
“I am thrilled to see this legislation on its way to President Trump’s desk where he will sign the bill into law,” said Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho. “Not only does this bill support hundreds of thousands of jobs, but it protects and maintains our public lands for generations that aren’t even born yet. I grew up on the doorstep of Yellowstone, and so many communities in Idaho benefit from the outdoor access and the economic impacts of our public lands. The Great American Outdoors Act ensures that projects are vetted by Congress annually, funds the programs without using taxpayer funds, and continues important state-based projects like greenbelts, parks, and community pools.”
“Bottom line, this bill is great for Idaho and public lands across this country. I am grateful for the support of the Idaho Conservation League for helping us get this important legislation passed,” he added.
Unfortunately the rest of the Idaho congressional delegation, including Rep. Russ Fulcher and Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch opposed the measure.
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, recreation areas, open space and trails. In Idaho, the fund has provided nearly $300 million to fund Bruneau Dunes State Park and city parks across the state.
Hundreds of projects have been funded, ranging from public swimming pools in Salmon, to the tennis courts Cambridge, to nature parks in Pocatello. It’s also 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 will provide $9.5 billion a year over 5 years to address deferred maintenance and will permanently allocate $900 million a year for the LWCF. Funding sources for both comes from dedicated energy-development revenues, not from taxpayers.
As a result of the House’s action today, we’ll soon see Idahoans at work restoring trails, campgrounds, wildlife habitat, and other resources on our public lands.