Langevin Hails Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act

Jul 22, 2020 Issues: Energy & Environment, Rhode Island

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) today voted in favor of H.R. 1957, the Great American Outdoors Act, which ensures the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be able to access $900 million annually and creates the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will provide funding for national parks and public lands in communities across the nation. The bill passed the House by a vote of 310-107.

“Passing the Great American Outdoors Act is a major victory for the country and Rhode Island as it supports conservation and our economy through direct investments in our national treasures,” said Langevin. “This legislation will protect our public lands for generations to come and counteract climate change at a critical time for our planet, all while creating needed employment opportunities. With passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, more Americans will be able to enjoy breathtaking destinations as we prioritize the preservation of endangered wildlife and irreplaceable natural habitats.”

The legislation is one of Congress’s most significant investments in environmental conservation in a generation. A portion of the royalties collected from energy extraction on public lands and waters, including offshore oil and gas drilling, are deposited in the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Last year, Congress passed the bipartisan Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act guaranteeing that $900 million will be placed in the LWCF each year. However, since its creation in 1964, Congress has rarely spent all funds deposited in the LWCF on conservation activities. Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act ensures these funds will be automatically spent to help state and local governments create and expand parks and recreational opportunities.

The LWCF is one of the nation’s most popular conservation programs and is used each year to enhance and establish local, state and national preservation areas by funding wide-ranging projects. In Rhode Island, the LWCF has supported the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge, Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge, Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Roger Williams National Memorial with nearly $40.5 million in aid.

The Great American Outdoors Act also creates a National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to deal with the enormous backlog of deferred maintenance among Federal land management agencies. The National Park Service alone estimates that it has $11.9 billion in restoration, rehabilitation, and improvement projects that have been put off due to a lack of funding. Over the next five years, the Legacy Restoration Fund will allocate nearly $1.9 billion per year to the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education to fix buildings, trails, roads and other public infrastructure.

With the impacts of climate change more visible each day, protecting public lands and preserving natural wildlife habitats is now more important than ever. Temperatures have increased nearly 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and the United Nations recently found that human activities threaten 1 million plants and animals with extinction. Governments can help combat climate change by protecting undeveloped natural resources, preserving habitats and increasing species resilience.

The Great American Outdoors Act passed the Senate in June. It now heads to the President who is expected to sign it into law.

A fact sheet of the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here.