August 23, 2020

What is the Great American Outdoors Act?

The Great American Outdoors Act

The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is now law. This federal legislation will significantly increase the pace of park conservation and improvements across America. What is the Great American Outdoors Act, and how will it affect you? In this article, we describe what makes it essential for outdoor recreation advocates and the general public. 

What is the Great American Outdoors Act?

The GAOA is the most significant land conservation legislation in a generation. The Act combines two bills. One sets aside funding to address the maintenance backlog at national parks. The other provides permanent support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF was established in 1964 to protect natural areas and water resources.

Why is the Great American Outdoors Act Important?

For more than 50 years, funding for land and water conservation has been inadequate. There is a massive backlog of maintenance and other critical needs in our parks and public areas. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how vital parks and public lands are to communities’ physical, mental, and financial health. This measure will help revitalize and improve access to shared outdoor spaces like local trails and city parks. 

The Act also addresses the backlog of maintenance needs for our national parks and other public lands. There is now a better opportunity to connect and complete our national, regional, and local trail networks. And funding is now available to provide playgrounds, ball fields, and other outdoor amenities close to families. 

Other opportunities afforded by GAOA are expanding sportsmen’s access and wildlife habitat, safeguarding our drinking water supplies, and creating jobs for infrastructure projects. Together, all of these efforts support the vital recreation, travel, and tourism economy.

How Much Money is Involved, and What Will it Impact?

First, GAOA establishes a National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund. This fund provides up to $9 billion over the next five years for maintenance at National Parks, wildlife refuges, forests, Indian Schools, and federal lands. 

$6.5 billion is earmarked for 419 National Park units. Visits to National Parks is up 50% since 1980, but National Parks budgets have been unchanged for the last 40 years. Because of this budget imbalance, there has been a lack of much-needed maintenance to roads, trails, campgrounds, and monuments.

Second, the GAOA guarantees $900 million per year in perpetuity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is a conservation program paid for by royalty payments from offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters. 

The LWCF is especially crucial because it helps fund the four main federal land programs (National Parks, National Forests, Fish and Wildlife, and the Bureau of Land Management). It also provides grants to state and local governments for recreation and conservation.

What’s Next?

Many communities are working with local and state legislators to access the funds available from the GAOA. Many more are looking to the LWCF for grant opportunities. GameTime can help provide information and assistance. Contact the GameTime expert in your area to learn more about this landmark legislation, and how your community can benefit.