While the original proposal of S.3422 marked a significant investment in our federally managed public lands, the proposal did not include maintenance backlog funding for the federal public lands that are critically important to our nation’s sportsmen and women. As a result, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) conducted significant outreach to CSC members through alerts and a letter signed by the top sporting-conservation groups to urge a dedicated percentage of funds be made available to increase access opportunities for sportsmen and women.
Resulting from CSF’s efforts, this historic legislation will provide a total of $9.5 billion over 5 years to restore our public recreational infrastructure with $3 billion set aside for maintenance backlog on the lands and waters that are of utmost importance to the sporting-conservation community.
“Sportsmen and women across the country are thrilled with the introduction of the Great American Outdoors Act,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “The resources provided through this legislation represent one of the most significant contributions ever made to addressing the federal lands maintenance backlog and increasing public access for sportsmen and women. We are extremely grateful for the leadership and commitment of the bill sponsors.”
Specifically, the National Park Service (NPS) will be allocated 70% of the funds, 15% will be for U.S. National Forests (USFS), 5% for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), 5% for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and 5% for the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). Our nation faces a $12 billion dollar maintenance backlog on federally managed public lands and this legislation will be a monumental step forward to providing our land managers with the necessary resources to address this issue.
The inclusion of non-NPS lands is essential because the vast majority of America’s sportsmen and women hunt and fish on National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and BLM lands, which collectively host more than 261 million visitors per year, in part due to the legal limitations and management prescriptions that preclude hunting and fishing at many National Parks.
Furthermore, the Great American Outdoors Act will provide permanent and dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually, which builds off of the success of S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act that permanently authorized the program, but did not provide any money.
S. 47 also contained a long-standing CSF priority known as Making Public Lands Public, which requires 3% or $15 million – whichever is greater – of LWCF funds be made available for the purpose of securing additional public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor-related activities. The scope of LWCF is virtually unprecedented as the program has completed a project in every county across the country and S. 3422 recognizes the importance and success of this program. The Great American Outdoors Act, in conjunction with S. 47, will provide LWCF the opportunity to operate at full capacity to help expand public access to lands and waters that are currently inaccessible by the public.
The bill now awaits further action in Senate.
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